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Labor & Employment Legal Alert
August 6, 2015              

Reminder: California Employers Must Provide Updated Management Training on Workplace Bullying

With most of 2015 already passed, California employers should ensure compliance with new sexual harassment prevention training requirements, which now include "abusive conduct" as a mandated topic of discussion.

If they have not already done so, California employers with 50 or more employees should: 

  1. update their sexual harassment prevention training materials to include abusive conduct as a topic or confirm with their training provider that this subject matter has been included; and 
  2. confirm that supervisors have received the updated training.

For the purposes of this training requirement "employer" also includes persons regularly receiving the services of 50 or more persons providing services pursuant to a contract.

The amended law—California Government Code Section 12950.1—took effect on January 1, 2015, and requires that covered California employers include prevention of "abusive conduct" as a part of their two-hour sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors. Under the amended law, "abusive conduct" is defined as what a "reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer's legitimate business interests." While "[a]busive conduct may include 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, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person's work performance," the law provides that "[a] single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious."

As the law is unspecific regarding how to comply with the new training requirements, California employers should consult with their "approved trainers" to incorporate the topic into their sexual harassment prevention training programs. Approved trainers include attorneys who have been in practice for at least two years and have practiced employment law, certain human resource professionals, and certain professors and instructors.

The law requires this training within six months of the date that the employee becomes a supervisor, and every two years thereafter. Employers who already have conducted training since January 1, 2015, but may have overlooked this new requirement, are strongly encouraged to conduct supplemental training. Although the new law is silent on the need to conduct supplemental training before the two-year "re-training" requirement, it is advisable to ensure that, at a minimum, supervisors receive the updated training before the end of this year.

If an employer violates the new training requirements, it may be subject to a court order or an order from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing requiring compliance. Importantly, compliance with these training requirements, or the alleged lack of compliance, often becomes an issue in future employment litigation with harassment and discrimination claims. Although the amended law does not create a new cause of action for "abusive conduct," the failure to train on that topic could have implications in various other types of litigation. 

Benjamin J. Kim Benjamin J. Kim
Labor & Employment | Class Actions | Entertainment & Media
Los Angeles
(213) 955-5585
(213) 620-8816 (fax)
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