New Law Seeks to Curb Workplace Bullying

By Assaf Lichtash

Most workers understand that federal and state laws prohibit certain types of conduct in the workplace. For example, it is common knowledge that sexual harassment and discrimination based on race or gender are against the law. Many people are surprised to learn, however, that certain types of hostile or even harassing conduct is completely legal. In fact, the United States Supreme Court has said as much in its opinion in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., in which the Court stated that the law “does not prohibit all verbal or physical harassment in the workplace.” Workplace bullying and harassment, while in some cases legal, can have a significant impact on workers’ emotional and mental health. In some cases, it can even be so severe as to force a person to leave their current job.

When workplace discrimination or harassment is motivated by a bias that is specifically prohibited by law, the target of the offensive conduct can often obtain legal relief. In many cases, the bias motivating such conduct may not be readily apparent, so anyone who has been the target of workplace hostility should discuss their case with an experienced California employment law attorney as soon as possible.

California law mandates employee training

A California law that went into effect on January 1st of this year requires that employers with more than 50 employees provide training on workplace bullying in conjunction with required sexual harassment training that is required every two years. The law, known as AB 2053, defines abusive conduct as “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.”

While the law does not provide any recourse for victims of workplace bullying and other forms of hostility, it is certainly a step in the right direction for recognizing the rights of California workers. People who are the victims of workplace hostility should seek legal counsel, even if the harassment or other misconduct does not seem to be motivated by a prohibited bias. In some cases, the fact that discriminatory treatment is motivated by such a bias may not be immediately clear, particularly to a person without legal training in anti-discrimination law. Among the characteristics upon which California has prohibited discrimination include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, citizenship status, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation and identity, AIDS/HIV status, medical conditions, political affiliation, military service, or status as a domestic violence or stalking victim.

Other Employment Articles

What is “At-Will” Employment?
While most employees may know that California law follows “at-will” employment, they may not know...

How to File a Complaint with the California Labor Commissione
The office of the Labor Commissioner at the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (D...

Employee Rights to Family and Medical Leave in California
In 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act gave qualified employees the right to accru...

New Employment Laws in California for 2015 (Part One)
In 2014, the California legislature passed numerous laws related to employment, most of which wen...

New Employment Laws in California for 2015 (Part Two)
In the first part of this series, we discussed some of the new employment laws going into effect ...

New Law Seeks to Curb Workplace Bullying
Most workers understand that federal and state laws prohibit certain types of conduct in the work...

Guide to Employing Nannies or Other Domestic Workers
Thousands of households in California employ nannies or other domestic workers, such as housekeep...

Increase in Wages for California Workers
Last year, the California state legislature passed a new labor law that went into effect on July ...

Unlawful Job Interview Questions in California
Almost every employee knows that he or she is protected by federal and state laws from unlawful d...