On September 9, 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 2053 into law and as of January 1, 2015, California Government Code section 12950.1 will be amended to require training on the prevention of abusive conduct as part of the sexual harassment training already required of certain employers. Section 12950.1 already requires that California employers with fifty (50) or more employees provide supervisory employees with sexual harassment training. Traditionally, the employment laws have focused on certain protected categories, such as race and sex. However, the new requirement is aimed at preventing abusive conduct generally, even if such conduct is not aimed at a particular protected class.
For the purposes of Section 12950.1, “abusive conduct” is defined 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.” It also goes on to list possible examples of such abusive conduct, such as:
• 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; and
• The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.
For further guidance on what constitutes abusive conduct, Section 12950.1 indicates that a single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.
In light of this amendment, California employers who fall under the training requirement imposed by Section 12950.1 should ensure that their training programs comply with the new subject matter required therein.
Sean Haddad is a business and employment attorney at Appell Shapiro, LLP in Los Angeles, California.