What’s New for 2019 – CALIFORNIA’S INCREASED PROTECTIONS AGAINST WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

In addition to the safeguards we have recently reported, the California legislature has enacted other significant “Me-Too”-inspired legislation effective January 1, 2019 to further prevent workplace harassment and encourage those targeted to prevail on their claims:

Optional Bystander Intervention Training Authorized. Employers may, but are not required to, provide bystander intervention training and guidance to enable persons to recognize and take action when observing problematic behavior in the workplace such as sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct. The training may include providing bystanders with the skills, confidence, and resources to intervene appropriately. Government Code 12950.2.

Settlement Confidentiality Limitations. Settlement agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2019 must not include any provision that prevents disclosure of factual information related to civil or administrative complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment, retaliation or discrimination based on sex. However, the settlement amount may remain confidential and the claimant’s identity may be shielded from disclosure. Code of Civil Procedure 1001.

Prohibition of Attorney’s Fees and Costs. Employers who prevail in lawsuits shall not be entitled to recover their attorney’s fees and costs unless the court finds the employee’s action was frivolously brought or maintained. .

Legislative Declarations. The legislature has declared its support or disapproval of several key judicial rulings, declaring that: (i) the plaintiff does not need to prove his/her production declined as a result of the harassment; (ii) a single incident of harassment may suffice to support the existence of a hostile work environment; (iii) any discriminatory remark – even if made by a co-worker — may be relevant, circumstantial evidence of workplace discrimination; and (iv) harassment cases should typically be brought to trial. While none of these statements establish new law, such declarations may become legally enforceable by further legislative action.  Government Code 12923.

As the various #MeToo laws make it more expensive and time-consuming to defend lawsuits and settle claims, it’s best to prevent problems from occurring or at least from escalating. Now is the time to update and implement employee handbooks, internal complaint procedures, and other legally-compliant personnel training, policies and procedures.

Please contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin with any questions on these changes. Our office will continue to provide such California-mandated interactive anti-harassment, -discrimination, and -retaliation training, including on-site seminars for flat fees.

Contact officemgr@tbowleslaw.com for more information and to schedule your seminar.

See also:

Cindy Bamforth

January 31, 2019

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