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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes legislation to strengthen protections for Delaware workers facing workplace misconduct

March 7, 2024

DOVER – The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to expand and protect the employment rights of Delaware workers.

Sponsored by Sen. Laura Sturgeon, Senate Bill 147 (S) would allow workers to enter electronically stored business records as evidence of workplace misconduct in a court of law without fear of being criminally charged or countersued by their employer for violating Delaware’s computer crimes statute.

“Every Delawareans has a fundamental right to work in an environment that’s free of discrimination and harassment,” Sen. Sturgeon said.

“The Senate today voted to help workers stand up for themselves when they are subjected to discrimination, harassment or misconduct in the workplace and seek justice in our courts,” she said. “I want to thank my colleagues for working with me to make sure our laws are empowering workers in the First State to fight for their rights without the fear of legal retaliation.” 

Under current state law, workers who use email, electronic records, and other computer systems to document violations of state and federal employment law can be charged with a misdemeanor and threatened with a civil suit that far exceeds any compensation they would be awarded if their misconduct claim was successful.

SB 147 (S) would create a narrow exception in Delaware’s computer crimes law that protects workers from criminal and civil liability when they access or disclose electronic records in pursuit of a workplace misconduct claim. 

“Workers in Delaware shouldn’t fear termination or other repercussions if they’re harassed or subjected to discrimination,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, the House prime sponsor of SB 147 (S). “Further, no one should be criminally or civilly penalized for accessing, even discussing electronic employment records they are normally authorized to have access to. This bill brings common-sense protection to Delawareans who are involved in workplace misconduct claims.”

SB 147 (S) was first introduced by Sen. Sturgeon and Rep. Osienski in 2023 as part of a three-bill legislative package to enhance the ability of workers to pursue legal actions when their employment rights are violated.

The other two bills in that package were passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor John Carney last year.

They included Senate Bill 145, which increased the monetary damages that Delaware Superior Court can award when workers successfully prove they were the victims of workplace discrimination, and Senate Bill 146, which helped workers meet the 300-day statute of limitations for employment discrimination claims.

Governor Carney in 2023 also signed Senate Bill 27, sponsored by Sen. Sturgeon and Rep. Osienski, that increased the statute of limitations for workers to file a claim for unpaid wages.

SB 147 (S) now heads to the House for final consideration.