Lawmakers Address Sexual Harassment In Bill

Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-19 20:30:11-05

Tennessee lawmakers have introduced a bill following the "Me Too" and "Times Up" movements that addresses sexual harassment for contracted workers, which includes a large portion of music industry workers in Tennessee. 

"Artists feel like they have to undergo harassment just to have their music played," Senator Jeff Yarbro, a democrat from Nashville who introduced the bill in the senate, said. 

In recent months, the news has been filled with stories of Hollywood stars who had to deal with sexual harassment, as well as people in Nashville's music industry.

Austin Rick, a former Country music artist, came out in 2017 with sexual misconduct allegations against publicist Kirt Webster, who formerly represented Dolly Parton among other artists. 

Taylor Swift won a court case against a DJ who groped her during a radio tour.

Numerous music industry workers spoke to Rolling Stone about sexual misconduct and harassment they had to deal with while working in the industry. 

"After spending some time, looking at those reports, it looked like there was a real gap in the law," Yarbro said. 

As the law is now, unless a contracted worker can bring criminal charges for sexual harassment, they're almost completely defenseless. That includes songwriters, musicians, technicians, and many others.

"The law should reach, protect them, even if it's not structured like in a typical employee, employer sense," Yarbro said. 

Dave Pomeroy, president of the Nashville Musicians Association, voiced his support for the bill with the following statement: 

"For far too long, the entertainment industry, including the music community, has had a “under the surface” double standard of behavior towards women that has finally been exposed to the general public. Regardless of anyone’s chosen profession, sexual intimidation and harassment is simply wrong, and something that absolutely must be addressed in a legal fashion, as well as from a cultural and behavioral standpoint. Those who are afraid of this kind of transparency must have something to hide. I am glad to see that this is finally happening and support any effort to rein in the kind of abusive behavior that has been all too common for far too long."

While the law will have a big impact on the music industry and it's professional workers, many of whom do not have an HR department to reach out to, the law will also protect anyone who is working a contracted job. 

"Lots of people are doing jobs as contractors, as temp workers," Yarbro said, adding that times have changed and people don't always have HR departments to go to. "Part of our workplace protection laws have to catch up with that." 

The bill is currently in house and senate committees, and Yarbro is encouraging citizens to reach out to their legislatures and voice their opinion on the bill.