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New California Law Requires Additional Training For Supervisors to Prevent “Abusive Conduct” in the Workplace

September 17, 2014

Under current California law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisors within six months of the individual’s assumption of a supervisory position and thereafter at least once every two years. (SeeNew California Law Requires Sexual Harassment Training For Supervisors Every Two Years”).  On September 9, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation amending this provision, Section 12950.1 of the Government Code, to require such training to include prevention of “abusive conduct” (sometimes referred to as bullying) in the workplace.  The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

The new law 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.  Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.”  Under the legislation a single act is not considered abusive conduct unless it is especially severe and egregious.

There is no private right of action for a violation of this law.  An employer’s failure to provide training as required by the law will not “in and of itself result in the liability of any employer to any present or former employee or applicant in any action alleging sexual harassment,” and, conversely, an employer’s provision of such training does not insulate the employer from liability. 

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions regarding an employer’s obligations under this California law.