The California legislature has established stricter requirements for some employers regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, AB2053, which took effect on Jan. 1, requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide training regarding preventing abusive conduct. Proponents of the bill say that it is simply an incorporation of abusive conduct training into the already mandated training for sexual harassment.
Abusive conduct may include physical or verbal actions that would be threatening, humiliating or intimidating to a reasonable person. Repeated instances of verbal abuse, including repeated derogatory comments, insults or epithets may also rise to the level of abusive conduct. The term is defined at California Code section 12950.1(g)(2). The law does not require that the violation be defined as unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation, nor must it be related to a protected characteristic of the victim.
Undermining or sabotaging the work performance of another may constitute abusive conduct under AB2053. Supporters of the legislation argued that the United States is suffering an epidemic of abusive work environments and that these lead to reduced employee morale, lowered productivity, and increased turnover and absenteeism. They claimed links between abusive work environments and greater numbers of workers’ compensation and medical claims as well.
The law in its current form does not establish a private right of action nor is it specific regarding how much of the required sexual harassment training must be devoted to the prevention of abusive conduct. However, an attorney with experience in employment law may be able to help employees and employers understand their rights and obligations under the law. In a case where an employee is suffering workplace sexual harassment or other types of abusive behavior at work, an attorney may be able to assist during communications with the employer or by drafting the documents necessary to pursue a civil claim.
Source: National Law Review, “Sexual Harassment Training in California Must Now Include the ‘Prevention of Abusive Conduct”–AB 2053,” Carly B. Plaskin, Feb. 5, 2015