California Employers Must Provide Training on Workplace Bullying Prevention

Stop Workplace BullyingCalifornia employers must now provide training on preventing workplace bullying. This has been a busy period for California employment law.  In addition to laws passed regarding unpaid interns and paid sick leave, Governor Jerry Brown also signed into law a new requirement on workplace training. AB 2053 mandates workplace bullying training be included as a part of mandatory employee training that is already required under California law.

California law currently requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide interactive training on sexual harassment, as well as additional training for supervisors, every two years.

California law specifies how the training must be conducted, including that it:

  • be interactive;
  • inform trainees of the relevant state and federal laws;
  • provide practical information and guidance to trainees;
  • include a description of the remedies available to individuals who are sexually harassed;
  • include practical examples for trainees; and
  • teach trainees on the prevention and correction of harassment.

Beginning January 1, 2015, training on “abusive conduct” will also be required in the biannual trainings.

What is abusive conduct?

The new California law defines “abusive conduct” as that “with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.” In other words, California employers will have to conduct trainings on workplace bullying.

Examples of Abusive Conduct

The law gives examples of what is considered abusive conduct, including:

  • derogatory remarks and epithets;
  • verbal threats or intimidating language;
  • humiliating language;
  • physical conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating;
  • insults; and
  • sabotage of an employee’s work performance.

One single act of any of the above will not constitute abusive conduct unless it is extremely severe.

The law stops short of making workplace harassment an actionable offense. However, if the abusive conduct is because an employee is part of a protected category, the employee may have a claim under existing California anti-discrimination laws such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).

As a result, the California law mandating workplace bullying training requires employers to provide training on conduct in the workplace that is not actionable in court.  An employee cannot sue for workplace bullying unless the bullying falls under the auspices of FEHA.

Can I sue for Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is currently not illegal in any state, although the issue has been in the media a lot recently.  Twenty six states have some type of legislation regarding workplace bullying at various stages.

If you are being bullied at work, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney.  You may have a claim for discrimination if the bullying is because of a protected category such as age, race, gender or religion.  Our attorneys would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation.

Are your employee training programs adequate?

California employers may wonder if their workplace policies, training programs and human resources policies are in compliance with the rapidly changing California law.  Beck Law, P.C. can work with employers to advise on compliance with California employment laws.  Contact us today to discuss your concerns.


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