Additional Harassment and Discrimination Protections for California Employees Signed into Law
On September 30, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill No. 1300 (SB 1300), which amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
The law goes into effect January 1, 2019, and expands protections for employees with respect to harassment and/or discrimination claims. The highlights of the new bill are:
Employer Responsibility for Harassment Committed by Nonemployees
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SB 1300 provides that an employer may be responsible for nonemployees’ sexual harassment or other unlawful harassment of the company’s employees or contractors, if the employer/its supervisors knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
Limitations on Release of Claims and Non-Disclosure Agreements
SB 1300 makes it unlawful for employers, in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment, to require employees to execute a release of harassment/discrimination claims, or to sign a non-disparagement/non-disclosure agreements related to unlawful acts in the workplace, including but not limited to sexual harassment.
Single Incident of Harassment May be Sufficient
The new law provides that a “single incident of harassment is sufficient to create a triable issue of a hostile work environment if the harassing conduct has unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.” To that effect, the new statute expressly rejects the Ninth Circuit decision in Brooks v. City of San Mateo, 229 F.3d 917 (2000), which in the years since its publication came to be called by its critics the “one free grope” standard.
“Stray Remarks” May be Evidence of Discrimination
The new law also rejects the so-called “stray remarks doctrine”, which was used to disregard discriminatory comments made by non-decision makers and/or comments that were not closely related to the employment decision at issue. The new law provides that even these so-called “stray remarks” may be relevant evidence of discrimination.
Sexual Harassment Standards Will No Longer Vary Depending on the Workplace
The new law confirms that the standard for what constitutes a valid claim for sexual harassment does not vary by the type of workplace, and it is irrelevant that a given occupation may have had a greater frequency of sexual commentary or conduct in the past.
Dismissal of Harassment Cases Before Trial Is “Rarely Appropriate”
SB 1300 declares legislative intent that harassment cases are “rarely appropriate for summary judgment” – a pretrial motion used by employers aimed at winning a case before a jury trial.
Contact our Los Angeles and San Bernardino Attorneys for More Information
If you believe that these changes to FEHA might apply to you, or if you have otherwise experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace, contact our office for a free consultation. Our Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Attorneys are highly knowledgeable about the intricacies of harassment and discrimination laws, and have successfully represented many victims of these practices. Call us at (310) 575-2550 or fill out the contact form on this page to speak to one of our Los Angeles Employment lawyers.