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Nshangalume: The Workplace is Not the Bedroom

H.B. 55 nullifies NDAs in cases of harassment and assault and it ensures victims of workplace violence are protected from perpetrators, but it’s just a starting point.
Claire Peterson
(Design by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Across the state, many people experience sexual violations at the hands of heedless bosses. Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan) challenges the narrative by giving power back to the hands of the victims.

H.B. 55 nullifies NDAs in cases of harassment and assault. It ensures victims of workplace violence are protected from perpetrators. A person who attempts to enforce a confidentiality clause will be liable for costs and reasonable attorney fees and will not be entitled to monetary compensation.

Though this bill will help further protect our most vulnerable and marginalized workers, it does not do much in a state that shows hostility towards women.

One Down, Many More to Go

Many Americans experience some sort of harassment, but women are at greater risk. 25% to 85% of working women experience sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace.

A study by the International Labour Organization found that youth and migrant workers are internationally at risk of workplace harassment and violence.

This bill will be a start in providing some sort of protection for many Utahns. However, there is more that must be done to protect these populations.

Utah must start offering children, women and migrant workers further protections. Initiatives such as DEI groups for women, people of color and youth are necessities.

This bill only works best if it is aimed at dismantling the power structures that cause these problems in the first place.

Disrupt the System

Over the past couple of years, Utah has targeted various groups such as LGBTQIA+ groups to help reinforce harmful stereotypes. In the same breath, Utah offers no remedies to fix one of the worst gender wage gaps in the U.S.

The continuous gender inequality perpetrated by the state and the hostile LGBTQIA+ environment in Utah will not do much justice to H.B. 55.

We can’t create Band-Aids for our problems. These inequalities cannot be brushed under the rug. H.B. 55 is not going to magically fix workplace sexual abuse if we don’t look at the main contributors to the violence and violations.

Ways to ensure the protection and prevention of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace is going to take more than a singular bill. We need to dismantle whole systems that contribute to the abuse.

A study by the Center for American Progress advises employers to create a culture of respect. This can look like establishing new standards and expectations of appropriate conduct to achieve systemic change — which will inevitably threaten the status quo.

Accountability is the Ability

We must create a culture of accountability. We cannot value the reputation of the company and organization over the livelihood of the workers. We must begin holding employers liable for sexual assault committed by any one of their employees. Understanding that sexual violence and misconduct is a community failure and not just a personal one.

To uphold these standards for companies, we must begin encouraging more forms of assembly in the workplace. The right to organize will ensure a more balanced power dynamic in the workforce. Having a strong employee union will ensure that when the company does not protect its employees, there will be consequences.

Creating a culture that promotes diversity and inclusion of all different identities in the workplace. This will help create a more respectful environment for all. Identity politics have struggled to transform the workplace, but this does not mean it can’t.

These initiatives need to be made through systemic changes to the organization’s power dynamics. Such as our everyday lives and interactions, our identities are a critical part of how we move in the world. Enforcing work policies that encourage the expression of protected identities will promote a more welcoming and flourishing environment.

H.B. 55 is just the starting point. There will need more action taken by the state to successfully combat sexual misconduct in the workplace.

We must understand the actions contributing to these power imbalances start early in our lives. This is why it is important to create inclusive and respectful initiatives in our schools and homes.

We must remember it is always a possibility we will become a victim in many of these situations.  We are all entitled to the right to get justice and have full autonomy to our bodies.


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About the Contributors
Iragi Nshangalume, Opinion Writer
(she/her) Iragi Nshangalume is an Opinion Writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. Iragi grew up around the Salt Lake valley, but spent most spent of her childhood in West Valley and Magna. She’s currently pursing her degree in Economics and Political Science. Outside of school and work, Iragi enjoys talking, music and the arts!
Claire Peterson, Designer
Claire has been a part of the design desk at the Chronicle since 2021. She’s a senior studying urban ecology with minors in geography and architecture. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, skiing, and paddle boarding.

Comments (1)

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    John HedbergFeb 23, 2024 at 7:03 pm


    I think 99%+ of people don’t favor violence toward anyone they care about, workplace or otherwise, so your outward premise is impossible to disagree with, and I absolutely support ending bullying, harassment, and violence no matter who’s practicing it or who’s being subjected to it.

    Then there’s your inward premise, that it’s somehow worse when it happens to people you happen to identify with. This is where you lose me in many of your articles, since abuse is always wrong, but so is bigotry, morally reprehensible, and you seem to practice it, favoring some group identities over others, when civil rights is founded on the fact that abuse is all the same to any person receiving it based on our common human identity and feelings, and the moment you abandon this identity we all share, you actually advocate racism, sexism, ethnic hate, and phobias of all kinds, because all these bigotries dehumanize very heterogenous groups of individuals who only look the same in the eyes of those whose Love & compassion are blinded by one kind of bigotry or another.

    Hatred toward any person is wrong: it has the same effect on any human being it happens to, so when you say it’s worse for some than others, you’re actually advocating the same argument made by the Nazi’s, pro-slavery KKK Jim Crow Democrats, Marxists/Maoists/Stalinists, and every other group which seeks to divide us from each other by saying that the humanity of some people (in their eyes) is worth less than the humanity of others. There isn’t a group or identity on this planet who hasn’t both practiced and suffered from this kind of bigotry and hatred, and it’s in acknowledging both the worse and the better angels of our common identity as human beings that we can know for a fact that all hatred is dehumanizing, always wrong no matter who gives or receives it: no family on Earth has been free of it in our constant effort to mature and grow beyond it. It’s not someone else’ hatred and violence that we need to worry about, but as Gandhi (who was Hindu) said, it’s our own inner devils that we need to defeat before we ever turn our compassion to the care and healing of other peoples’ human suffering, or as Jesus of Nazareth (who was Jewish) put it more simply, “Physician, Heal Thy Self”~!

    You say with unproven bias that the state of Utah shows hostility toward women, children, migrants, and the sexual/gender-diverse, and then you continue by attacking “power structures” which you assume rather than define or provide evidence against, which is much the same way the National Socialists targeted the Jews in Germany during the 1930’s, and it got them the power they craved, power to commit the same harms and injustices they assumed but never proved regarding anyone who didn’t adopt their same bigoted & deliberate dehumanizing blindnesses. Why do that again?

    You ignore the fact that the Marxist-Equity agenda, even just on this campus, has caused its own widespread abuse toward students of all flavors, which it then systematically tries to suppress and censor while shouting about including diversity and advocating ever-grander public tantrums where more innocent people are likely to get hurt: compassionate?? You ignore the fact that this same Equity system attempted to deny life-saving medicines to dying COVID patients based on race only 2 years ago here in Utah, which is Nuremberg-level hate crime, and yet the Prophets of Equity simply disregard and/or deny that such examples, which undermine and disprove their own biased hate-narrative, ever happened or existed. So, the Equity power structure you advocate attempted targeted race murder within the last 2 years, but you think we need to eliminate bigotry and violence only towards the human beings who don’t fit inside your own preferred bigotries and hatreds?

    I’m sure you mean well, Iragi. The goal of loving every child of God (by Whatever Name) equally well is one I think most of us share, but your assumptions without evidence about the bigotries of people around you who are mostly innocent demands its own attention, and I think in your best heart, you see why~