New 2014 California Laws & AB 1825
California law (AB 1825) requires employers to provide two hours of anti-harassment training to supervisors every two years. The training must include (among other things) the legal definitions of harassment and discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
During the 2013 legislative season, Governor Brown signed a number of bills affecting employment. Four of these bills will change California’s anti-discrimination laws:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- SB 292 clarifies that in sexual harassment lawsuits it is not necessary to prove that a harasser was motivated by sexual desire. This law amends the FEHA by adding: “Sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.”
Because these bills will amend the state anti-discrimination laws after January 1, 2014, the content of AB 1825 trainings must reflect the changes. However, these changes are minor:
- Discrimination based on military service or veteran status was already prohibited by federal law (USERRA). Although AB 556 amends the FEHA, LawRoom has always included “military and veteran status” on the list of protected characteristics in our AB 1825 training courses.
- The most significant anti-bias development is SB 400’s protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and their right to time off under SB 288. This should be noted in anti-bias trainings. (Curiously, however, these bills amended the Labor Code but did not amend the FEHA, so technically they are not required to be included in AB 1825 courses.)
- Finally, SB 292 did not change the law, but instead was intended to clarify it and overturn one Appellate Court opinion (Kelley v. The Conco Companies). This case found that male iron workers who made graphic sexual insults against a male apprentice lacked sexual desire and so did not commit sexual harassment. This decision was unusual, and contradicted earlier Appellate Court opinions (e.g., Singleton v. US Gypsum). LawRoom’s courses did not include the unusual Kelley decision, nor did they suggest that harassment had to be “motivated by sexual desire.” As a result, our courses will not have to be modified because of this bill.
As legal and training professionals, we use our experience and judgment to identify both important and minor developments in the law, and to update and revise LawRoom’s courses as appropriate. As always, LawRoom warrants its online Supervisor Compliance Program complies with California’s AB 1825 regulations.
We understand some consultants are using scare tactics and hype to try to confuse employers about these amendments. We hope this post will relieve some of the confusion.