Leigh Rhoads Provided Testimony in a committee hearing on HB 1418
On January 20, 2021, Leigh was requested by the Women's National Law Center to provide testimony in a General Assembly committee hearing regarding HB 1418, the Virginia Safe and Thriving Workplace Act (PDF). Workplace harassment is a widespread problem, affecting workers in every state, in every kind of workplace and industry, and at every level of employment. However, low-paid workers, two-thirds of whom are women in Virginia--are especially at risk of harassment given the stark imbalances they experience at work. Women--disproportionately Black women--are also 66% of front-line workers in Virginia risking their lives during the COVID pandemic in low-paid jobs. Without a safety net or optimism about their chances of finding another job, workers are more desperate to keep a paycheck at any cost and less willing to report workplace abuses, increasing their vulnerability to harassment, discrimination, exploitation, abuse, and retaliation at work. Virginia's Human Rights Act currently prohibits, but does not DEFINE "harassment", which puts workers at a greater risk of workplace abuses. Instead, the parameters of what constitutes workplace harassment have been left to courts and the result has been varying interpretations with many legitimate cases involving behavior most people would consider harassment being thrown out of court. This bill is intended to provide a clear definition of harassment that reflects the realities of workplace harassment and Leigh was pleased to speak about her experiences as a litigator in this area to support the bill.