By Algeria Ford and N. Richard Shreiba, Attorneys, Burke Williams & Sorensen LLP
California legislators recently took steps to address confidentiality concerns when Senate Bill 1131 (Newman) was signed into law. Considered necessary for the preservation of public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of the California Constitution, it was enacted as an urgency measure and went into effect on September 26, 2022 to protect individuals who face threats of violence or violence or harassment from the public because of their work.
Prior to SB 1131, California provided address confidentiality, under certain circumstances, to employees and volunteers who work for reproductive health care services facilities (“Facilities”). Specifically, the confidentiality provisions in the law were aimed, in part, at protecting individuals who work at Facilities from intimidation, threats of violence, and actual acts of violence. With SB 1131, address confidentiality protections are expanded to include public entity employees and independent contractors serving public entities (“Workers”). Specifically, SB 1131 amended Government Code section 6215.2 to add a definition for “Public Entity” as a federal, state, or local government agency. As local government agencies, special district Workers are covered by SB 1131’s confidentiality protection provisions.
As public entity employers, special districts may have Workers that have concerns for their safety and elect to take advantage of the new protections provided by SB 1131. Workers who face threats of violence or acts of violence or harassment from the public because of their work for the district, may obtain address confidentiality by following a specific procedure as detailed in Government Code section 6215.2. Notably, a certified statement by the Worker stating that the Worker has been a target of violence, threat of violence, or harassment within one year of the application based on the Worker’s work for the public entity is sufficient to satisfy one of the requirements to received address confidentiality.
Once a Worker files a properly completed application with the Secretary of State, the Worker will be certified as a program participant, and such certification will be valid for four years. A Worker who receives certification as a program participant may proceed to use the address designated by the California Secretary of State as the Worker’s work address.
There are likely at least two key impacts to special districts resulting from SB 1131. As an initial matter, district employees, namely those in supervisory authority, may receive requests from certain Workers requesting their assistance in providing a certified statement in support of the Workers’ application for confidentiality with the Secretary of State. Secondly, districts must remain cognizant of Workers who have been certified as program participants by the Secretary of State, because it may impact responses to certain public records requests. SB 1131 enables local agencies, such as special districts, to respond to requests for public records without disclosing the residential address of Workers who have been certified as program participants.
Special districts should consider adopting administrative policies that assist its employees in complying with the various aspects of SB 1131. Specifically, crafting clear guidelines within the statutory parameters for responding to requests for certifications from Workers and California Public Records Act requests from the public regarding Workers covered by SB 1131 is highly recommended.
Stay tuned to the New Laws Series in CSDA eNews for more in-depth analyses on new laws affecting special districts.
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Communication is provided for general information only and is not offered or intended as legal advice. Readers should seek the advice of an attorney when confronted with legal issues and attorneys should perform an independent evaluation of the issues raised in these communications.