California Supervisor Training Requirements to Include Workplace Bullying
Effective January 1, 2015, a new California law took effect placing additional obligations on employers in preventing workplace bullying. California state law already required employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with sexual harassment training upon their assignment to a supervisory position.
The legislation, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, requires that those same employers in California (with 50 or more workers) include lessons on bullying or “abusive conduct” when they carry out state-mandated sexual harassment training for supervisors every two years. Abusive conduct is broadly defined under the law as “conduct of an employer or employee, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer's legitimate business interests.” This definition prohibits such acts as the use of derogatory remarks or insults; verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; and gratuitous undermining of a person's work performance. A single act does not constitute abuse unless it is especially severe and egregious.
Unlike sexual harassment, workplace bullying is not illegal, so long as it is not based on protected classes like race, religion, or sexual orientation. That means an employer is not legally liable should bullying occur in the workplace. Similarly, the law does not create a private right of action for employees, and therefore employees may not sue their employer or bring a charge of discrimination for “abusive conduct.” However, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing may take action to enforce employer compliance.
While the bill doesn't define how much time an employer has to spend on workplace bullying as part of the two-hour sexual harassment training, employers with 50 or more employees in California should review their training programs to ensure the training provided to supervisors adequately addresses “abusive conduct.”
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