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New Law Expands the Training Obligations on California Employers to Include "Abusive Conduct"

Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that expands employer training obligations to include prevention of "abusive conduct" in addition to already existing law concerning training supervisors about harassment and discrimination (see here).

AB 2053, effective January 1, 2015, requires that existing law concerning supervisor training include a component of prevention of "abusive conduct." Existing law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least 2-hours of classroom or other interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position. Each supervisory employee must receive sexual harassment training and education once every two years. This is the minimum threshold; smaller and larger employers are free to provide more frequent and elaborate training.

What is "abusive conduct?"

Conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, done with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to the employer's legitimate business interests. Examples of such conduct include: repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, physical or verbal conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating, or gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person's work performance. While a single act usually cannot constitute "abusive conduct," it may do so if it is "especially severe and egregious." Courts will have to decide the Constitutional limits to this statute.

What types of training are required?

• Information and practical guidance regarding federal and state statutes;

• Education concerning the prohibition against and the prevention and correction of sexual harassment and the remedies available to its victims;

• Practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and abusive conduct

This new law does not create a private right of action by an employee against a non-compliant employer, but it does permit the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to seek an order requiring the employer to comply with the requirements. It is also important to note that an employer who complies with the training requirements is not shielded from liability for harassment or discrimination.

If you have any questions about this new law, or any other employment and labor law questions you or your company may be facing, please feel free to contact us.

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