The #MeToo movement has certainly had an impact on how employers do business in California. But even before this, California was long considered to be a trailblazer in the area of sexual harassment law. Indeed, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act mirrors Title VII and employers in other states often look to sexual harassment cases and laws in California for guidance.
California law now requires mandatory sexual harassment training for supervisors and training that covers “abusive conduct” (i.e. bullying) and sexual harassment avoidance. Specifically, the amended regulations by the Fair Employment and Housing Council include instructions for employers to:
- Define “abusive conduct” as malicious behaviors that can include the repeated use of derogatory remarks, insults, and verbal or physical conduct that a “reasonable person” would consider “threatening, intimidating or humiliating,” as well as the deliberate sabotaging or undermining of a worker’s performance on the job.
- Explain that a single episode or incident of this behavior shouldn’t be considered abusive conduct, unless it is “especially severe or egregious.”
- Explain the negative effects of bullying on victims and co-workers, and on productivity and morale.
- Cover the subject “in a meaningful manner,” though there’s no further direction on how to do that.
While “abusive conduct” is not currently illegal in and of itself, these additional training requirements have created speculation that legislation labeling bullying as illegal is coming down the pike. Regardless, it is critical that California employers incorporate these training requirements.
It goes without saying that bullying in the workplace should be discouraged, if not eliminated entirely to the best of the employer’s ability. For more information on how to foster a healthy work environment, including the types of training to be included and topics to be addressed in your employee handbook, contact experienced attorney Drew E. Pomerance today.