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Sexual Harassment Bill Legislative Updates: What You Should Know
On behalf of The Kaufman Law Firm posted in Sexual Harassment on Friday, October 5, 2018.

In Governor Jerry Brown’s final bill-signing period in office, California Legislators sent him 1,217 bills to consider. This is more than any governor of California has seen since the year 2004. In this final period, Governor Brown signed 1016 bills and vetoed 201.

After such a busy period, many employers may be confused and worried about complying with new laws. Our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney breaks down SB 1300, an important sexual harassment bill, telling you what past decisions it confirms or rejects and what new sections it adds to Government Code.

SB 1300 – Sexual Harassment Omnibus Bill

This bill adds a section to the Government Code that expresses that the point of harassment laws is to provide resident California employees with an equal opportunity to succeed at work. In doing so, the bill rejects or affirms the following judicial decisions:

Rejected Decisions

  • Brooks v. The city of San Mateo – prohibits courts from relying on Judge Alex Kozinski’s Ninth Circuit views on what conduct is pervasive or severe enough to be considered actionable harassment under FEHA.
  • Kelley v. Conco Companies – disapproves of using this case as the basis of differing hostile work environment harassment standards depending on the type of workplace.

Affirmed Decisions

  • Reid v. Google, Inc. – affirms the rejection of the “stray remarks doctrine” by the California Supreme Court because a discriminatory remark can be circumstantial, and relevant evidence of discrimination based on the totality of the circumstances, even if it’s not made in direct correlation to an employment decision.
  • Harris v. Forklift Systems – approves the standard created when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred that a plaintiff in a sexual harassment case doesn’t need to prove that their productivity has decreased as a result of the harassment. It’s enough to prove that any reasonable person subjected to the same conduct would find their job more difficult to do because the harassment altered their working conditions.
  • Nazir v. United Airlines, Inc. – affirms the observation made in this case that issues in a hostile working environment case are not determinable on paper.

Other New Laws Based on SB 1300

SB 1300 also provides the following:

  • If a defendant prevails, they may not be awarded attorney’s costs and fees unless the court determines that the case was groundless, unreasonable, or frivolous when it was brought by the plaintiff, or that the plaintiff continued their litigation with a Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney well after it became so.
  • Employers are prohibited from requiring a signed release of FEHA rights or claims, or a document that proscribes disclosure of unlawful acts in the workplace, as a condition of a bonus, raise, or employment. This includes non-disparagement agreements but does not apply to settlement agreements that are negotiated to resolve FEHA claims brought before administrative agencies or the court, through the employer’s internal complaint process or alternative dispute resolution.
  • An employer’s FEHA liability for the exploits of nonemployees is expanded to include every form of unlawful harassment. It’s no longer limited to sexual-based harassment.
  • Employers are authorized, but not required, to provide employees with bystander intervention training.

It was originally proposed that SB 1300 subject alleged harassers to personal liability for discrimination, retaliation, and other adverse actions taken by an employer against those who opposed practices prohibited by FEHA, or those who participated in a FEHA action. Because amendment SB 1038 didn’t make it out of Legislature, it will not become an operative part of SB 1300.

If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, The Kaufman Law Firm can help. Call our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney team at 866-278-2385 today to take action against your employer and attain the compensation you deserve.

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