New Harassment Prevention for 2014

January 14th, 2014

Laws regarding harassment in the work place are ever evolving to define employee rights and to promote fair practices in hiring, firing, promotion and disciplinary action. During the 2013 legislative season, Governor Brown signed a number of bills affecting employment, four of which will change the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

To kick off 2014, we’d like to share some basic information on those four bills, along with our thoughts on what employers need to do to incorporate the new provisions moving forward. (Please note that the following is not intended as legal advice. Should you have specific questions about how the new laws affect your business, please contact a certified legal advisor.)

AB 556

AB 556 prohibits discrimination against members of the armed services by adding “military and veteran status” to the list of characteristics protected by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). “Military and veteran status” refers to a member or veteran of the Armed Forces, Reserve, or National Guard. What to do: Employers should review their employment policies and handbooks to make sure this new category of protected worker is included in writing.

SB 400

SB 400 extends existing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault (Labor Code 230) to victims of stalking. It also prohibits discrimination against, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for, employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. What to do: Employers should design a protocol for handling requests for time off under SB 400, and communicate with supervisors regarding their obligations under this law.

SB 288

SB 288 prohibits discrimination against victims (and their immediate family members) of certain violent crimes (including domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking) for taking time off to appear at a court proceeding. What to do: Employers should design a protocol for handling requests for time off under SB 288, and establish a procedure for obtaining the appropriate documentation to verify the need for time off.

SB 292

SB 292 clarifies that in sexual harassment lawsuits it is not necessary to prove that a harasser was motivated by sexual desire. What to do: Employers should provide anti-harassment training to all supervisors, emphasizing how the new law recognizes that sexual harassment need not be characterized or motivated by intent or desire.

A New Year

Keep in mind that after January 1, 2014, the content of AB 1825 trainings must reflect the above changes. Fortunately, the new laws do not require drastic alterations, but rather subtle shifts toward greater inclusion. Should you have further questions regarding the bills, please contact a certified legal advisor.

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