Another bill seeks to incentivize pro-equality practices in businesses, retail spaces
AS anti-Asian hate continues to be one of the nation’s most pressing race concerns, California Governor Gavin Newsom last week passed two bills that target harassment in public spaces.
On Sept. 13, Newsom signed off on a number of laws — including SB 1161 and AB 2448, which go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — that seek to curb verbal and violent assault in retail settings, transportation hubs, and within government agencies and departments.
SB 1161, also known as the Increase Safety for Public Transit Riders bill, is designed to understand where, when, and why harassment occurs in public transportation hubs.
The Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University will create a survey of California transit operators in an effort to create safety solutions for commuters and travelers.
About 40% of the nearly 11,500 reported incidents of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) harassment over the last two years occurred in public spaces, according to Stop AAPI Hate, the hate crime tracker that aggregates self-reported incidents of anti-AAPI discrimination.
One in ten of these incidents happened on public transportation, including the harassment of a Filipina nurse in San Jose, California early last year that went viral on social media.
State Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) authored the bill and applauded Newsom for passing the “data-driven framework that will help us understand why these incidents keep happening.”
In a statement, Min said, “No Californian should feel unsafe on public transit, yet study after study shows that a majority of women, seniors, LGBTQ riders and other vulnerable populations experience street harassment or worse while commuting.”
Though it also seeks to encourage safety protocol as well, AB 2448 — the Protect Customers’ Civil Rights at Businesses bill — provides a pilot program for business owners to ensure their businesses foster “welcoming and safe spaces” for customers.
Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) authored the bill and said in a statement, “Customers have the right to feel safe in businesses, and workers need training on ensuring that. Right now, our state’s civil rights laws do not adequately protect people who are verbally harassed and intimidated while grocery shopping or eating at a restaurant.”
The “first-of-its-kind” pilot program mandated under AB 2448, which had unanimously passed both chambers of the state Legislature, would give recognition to businesses that thoroughly train their employees on how to handle discrimination and provide clear codes of conduct that encourages respectful behavior for customers.
AB 2448’s passing comes as incidents of racial discrimination, harassment, and abuse are being recorded and spreading across social media on a mass scale.
Businesses that are cleared as complying with AB 2448’s guidelines will receive a certificate of compliance, which may help customers decide which businesses to frequent based on how seriously retailers take discrimination and harrassment.
“Our state has made great strides in redressing historic wrongs and stubborn disparities, but we know that much work remains to tackle the barriers that hold back too many Californians and undermine our collective prosperity,” Newsom said in a statement that introduced multiple actions targeting various social justice concerns.
In addition to signing these bills, Newsom, via executive order, has directed all state agencies and departments to also “take additional actions and embed explicit analysis of equity considerations in policies in practices.”
Specifically, the order recommends that these agencies take extra steps to understand systemic discrimination that has historically limited access to statewide resources for disenfranchised communities. n