If you were worried that California employers weren’t sufficiently regulated, let me calm your fears. Governor Jerry Brown has signed several new bills this month.
Nancy Yaffe already reported on the new paid sick leave requirements that go into effect on July 1, 2015.
On September 9, 2014, the governor signed AB 2053, which requires that mandatory sexual harassment training include information about bullying. More specifically, the training must “include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the training.” The bill describes “abusive conduct” as:
conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.
I have no objection to employers encouraging employees to behave civilly. But I worry that this is a step towards legislation allowing employees to sue if they aren’t the victim of actionable harassment, but perceive themselves as being bullied. There will always be conflicts in the workplace (and other places where humans interact) and it isn’t hard to imagine some of those involved in these conficts portraying themselves as victims of bullying, especially if there’s financial incentive to doing so.
Also on September 9, 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1443 extending the Fair Employment and Housing Act’s protections to unpaid interns and those in apprenticeship training programs. Both AB 2053 and AB 1443 take effect on January 1, 2015. So employers should plan to update their employee manuals and harassment training before then.