California Adds New Employment Laws Related to the #MeToo Movement

By Michael Klazema on 11/20/2018

In the past year, the #MeToo movement has exposed countless famous and well-regarded men as sexual harassers or abusers. In addition to effectively ending the careers of men like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement has also shined a spotlight on workplace behavior and what is and is not professionally appropriate. According to an extensive report published by The National Review, that spotlight has resulted in a series of new employment-related laws in California.

The laws outlined in the National Review article were all signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown at the end of September. Most of them will go into effect on New Year’s Day 2019.

A few of the new laws include the following.

  • Senate Bill 1300: This law tweaks the definition of “hostile work environment harassment.” Previously, California law said that harassment had to be “severe or pervasive” for it to create a true “hostile work environment.” Now, employees will have grounds for legal action even if they have only suffered a “single incident of harassing conduct.”

  • Assembly Bill 1619: AB 1619 extends the statue of limitation for sexual assault claims from three years to a decade. Now, plaintiffs can bring civil suits against their assaulters for ten years after the date of the “last act, attempted act, or assault with the attempt to commit an act.”

  • SB 820: This bill makes it illegal to draft settlement agreements that would prevent a plaintiff from disclosing details about harassment claims in a court proceeding. If an employee were harassed by a manager and then settled a lawsuit against his or her employer, that settlement could not prevent the plaintiff from speaking about the harassment in a later court proceeding—for example, as a witness for another victim.

  • AB 2770: This law extends defamation protections for accusers making sexual harassment claims.

  • SB 1343: SB 1343 changes state laws on anti-harassment training. Previously, only employers with 50 employees or more were required to provide anti-harassment training to staff. Now, all employers with five or more employees must provide training to supervisors (two hours every two years) and non-supervisors (one hour every two years).

  • SB 826: Under SB 826, all publicly-held corporations with “principal executive offices” based in California must include at least one female board member. Larger boards must have additional female representation.

These laws do not represent all the new legislative changes on the way for California in the near future, but they show a definite trend. California’s government is cracking down on workplace harassment and gender inequality among other issues. Employers in the state need to be ready to meet the new requirements of these laws.

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