On September 30, Governor Jerry Brown signed several bills into law and many of them will change the way sexual harassment claims work in California. So, what are these changes and how will they affect employees all over the state? These highlights may help you better understand the changes that have been made.
Changes in California Sexual Harassment Law
SB 1300 – This bill addresses loopholes that allow employers to conceal incidents of sexual harassment. By clarifying the “severe or pervasive” legal standard for harassment claims, the bill ends the “one free grope” legal standard. This means employers may be liable for incidents of harassment, even if they are the first occurrence. SB 1300 also bans legal agreements that prevent workers from filing harassment claims or speaking out about sexual harassment. It also prohibits third-party harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and it prevents defendants from being awarded legal fees under the same act unless the plaintiff’s legal action is determined to be frivolous and without merit by the court.
SB 224 – California is a hot spot for non-traditional employment, but that doesn’t give these employers a pass when it comes to sexual misconduct. Using the Unruh Civil Rights Act, this bill makes it clear that harassment from film directors, producers, elected officials, lobbyists, and investors is illegal. This protection also applies to plaintiffs who are victimized by associates who proclaim to be helping the plaintiff’s business or career.
SB 820 – In an effort to create more transparency after settlements, this bill prevents settlement agreements from banning the disclosure of certain facts. If factual information is related to sexual assault, harassment or discrimination filed in an administrative or civil action, it cannot be suppressed. However, this law also shields the identity of claimants who desire anonymity unless they are a government or public official.
SB 1343 – This bill requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment training. Supervisors must have two hours of training while other employees must have at least one hour of training. This bill also requires the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to provide courses, posters and other materials to help prevent sexual harassment.
AB 3109 – Any provisions in settlement agreements or contracts that waive a party’s right to testify about alleged criminal or sexual misconduct is rendered void by this bill.
These changes in the law show a commitment from our lawmakers to make California a safer place for everyone to work. As employment attorneys focused on protecting workers from discrimination, harassment and retaliation, we applaud that commitment. To learn more about your rights as a worker in California, keep following Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani LLP. And if you believe you have been taken advantage of at work, contact us at (310) 919-0091.