New CA Employment Laws Inspired by the #MeToo Movement

The recent #MeToo movement has opened the doorway to new legislation that was recently signed by Gov. Brown. A summary of some of the new laws can be found below.

New Requirements For Sexual Harassment Workplace Training

Senate Bill 1343 changes the requirements for workplace sexual harassment prevention training in the #MeToo era. The bill amends California Government Code Section 12950.1 and changes several workplace training requirements, including the following:

  • Training required by small businesses: Employers with at least 5 employees are now required to provide training to their employees (the bar was lowered significantly from the previous 50-employee threshold);
  • Training is no longer limited to supervisory employees: Employers are now required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees, including non-supervisory employees. Specifically, one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment must be provided to all non-supervisory employees, and two hours of the same to supervisory employees.
  • Training required within six months of job commencement: Employees are currently required to undergo training within six months of starting their jobs. Seasonal or temporary employees (or any employees that will be employed less than six months) need to undergo training within 30 days or 100 hours, whichever comes first.

The new bill will force many employers to completely change their current training protocols in light of the new requirements. The bill also directs the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to create online training modules that employees could take to fulfill the new requirements. Employers will need to consider carefully how and what training to provide to all of their employees in order to ensure that the training is perceived by employees to be genuine.

Corporate Boards Are Required To Include Women

Senate Bill 826 requires that all California publicly held companies have a minimum of one female on their board of directors by the end of 2019 and a minimum of 2 female directors if 5 total directors, or 3 female directors if 6 or more total directors by the end of 2021. Failure to comply will result in fines ($100,000 for the first violation and $300,000 for subsequent violations).

“Hostile Work Environment” Is Redefined

Senate Bill 1300 states that a single incident of harassing conduct is sufficient to create a triable issue of hostile work environment if the conduct interfered with a plaintiff’s work performance or otherwise created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The law also explicitly rejects the prior standard for hostile work environment set by the 9th Circuit in Brooks v. City of San Mateo, 229 F.3d 917 (9th Cir. 2000), an opinion written by former Judge Alex Kozinski who retired from the court in 2017 amidst allegations of improper sexual conduct while on the bench.

Sexual Harassment Claims Permitted Against a Defendant Who Holds Himself Out As Being Able to Help Plaintiff

Aimed at preventing directors and producers from taking advantage of young talent looking for a break, Senate Bill 224 creates a cause of action for sexual harassment where

  • Plaintiff proves there is a business, service, or professional relationship between plaintiff and defendant, or defendant holds himself or herself out as being able to help plaintiff establish a business, service, or professional relationship with the defendant or a third party;
  • Defendant has made sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, demands for sexual compliance, or other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual or hostile nature based on gender that were unwelcome and pervasive or severe; and
  • Plaintiff suffered or will suffer economic loss or personal injury.

Talent Agencies Required to Provide Talent with Educational Materials on Sexual Harassment

Assembly Bill 2338 requires that a talent agency, as a condition of the requirement that it be licensed with the Labor Commissioner, provide educational materials on sex harassment prevention, retaliation, and reporting resources to its talent (the artists). Failure to comply will result in $100 fines for each violation.

Human Trafficking Awareness Training Required of Certain Employees

Senate Bill 970 requires that employees who are likely to interact or come into contact with victims of human trafficking (e.g., those who have recurring interactions with the public such as receptionists, housekeepers, and drivers) go through 20 minutes of classroom or other interactive training regarding human trafficking awareness.

These are just some of the recent laws that have been signed by Gov. Brown.

Source: https://calemploymentlawupdate.proskauer.com/2018/10/governor-brown-signs-slew-of-metoo-inspired-laws/