California legislators sent a total of 1,217 bills to California Governor Jerry Brown for the 2017-2018 regular legislative session. He signed 1,016, vetoed 201, and 183 of them he reviewed the weekend just before his September 30, 2018, signature deadline. (In case you are wondering, that’s a lot of bills for one year; more than any California governor has seen since 2004.) While these bills touched on a variety of issues, many will have impacts on employers.
One issue that multiple bills covered is sexual harassment. Governor Brown signed three pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening protections against sexual harassment in the workplace by restricting nondisclosure agreements, expanding legal recourse, and increasing training requirements.
Alternatively, he vetoed two bills – but for good reason. He vetoed AB 3080 prohibiting mandatory arbitration agreements, as it conflicted with SCOTUS’s May 2018 decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis. He also vetoed AB 1870, which would have extended the statute of limitations (SOL) for claims brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). According to the Governor’s message attached to his veto, “ . . . the current [SOL] of one year encourages prompt resolution and ensures that unwelcome behavior is promptly reported and halted.”
Effective January 1, 2019, SB 1300 changes the way sexual harassment claims are litigated and more. It:
This law, which also takes effect January 1, 2019, bans non-disclosure agreements in civil or administrative actions involving claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, workplace harassment, or discrimination based on sex. It also allows a claimant to shield their identity. While it does not require employers to disclose the amount paid in settlements, the underlying facts of the case cannot be withheld.
This law expands California’s already-stringent sexual harassment training requirements. While it does not change the content requirements, beginning January 1, 2020, the state will require all employers with five or more employees (down from the current 50), including temporary or seasonal employees, to provide at least one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education about sexual harassment to all nonsupervisory employees in California within six months of hire.
Under the new law, an employer may provide this training in conjunction with other training. The training may be given individually or as part of a group presentation, and may be completed in shorter segments, as long as the hourly total requirement is met. However, an employer who has provided this training and education to an employee after January 1, 2019, is not required to provide training and education by the January 1, 2020, deadline.
For information on other California bills relevant to employers, keep an eye on ThinkHR’s Law Alerts. Law Alerts are posted daily to Comply and aggregated on this blog every other Monday for each state in which there is news. Federal legislation and regulations are also covered in Law Alerts.