On July 9, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed two employment-related bills that are effective January 1, 2019: one sexual harassment bill to protect victims of harassment and one bill related to Paid Family Leave.
Bill to Protect Victims/Employers from Serial Harassers Signed
The governor signed AB 2770 (Irwin; D-Thousand Oaks) — a California Chamber of Commerce-sponsored job creator bill that protects sexual harassment victims and employers from being sued for defamation.
AB 2770 codifies case law to ensure victims of sexual harassment and employers are not sued for defamation by the alleged harasser when a complaint of sexual harassment is made and the employer conducts its internal investigation. This bill also provides additional protections to employers by expressly allowing employers to inform potential employers about the sexual harassment investigation and findings.
AB 2770 passed the Legislature with unanimous bipartisan support.
CalChamber sponsored AB 2770 because alleged harassers are not only suing victims, but also filing suit against employers for defamation. Such lawsuits put employers in an impossible position as they have an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct harassment.
Even worse, if the alleged harasser’s employment is then terminated, or the alleged harasser resigns, employers are put in an even more difficult position. The company has knowledge of the harassing activity and yet its hands are tied. If the company tells a potential employer that the employee was accused of harassing conduct, the company is on the hook for a defamation claim. If the company stays silent, the harasser is then free to victimize more individuals at his/her next job without anyone at the new company ever knowing about the unacceptable behavior.
AB 2770 will protect employers and allow them to warn potential employers about an individual’s harassing conduct during a reference check without threat of a defamation lawsuit.
Paid Family Leave Updated
The governor also signed AB 2587 (Levine; D- Marin County). Earlier this year, a new law went into effect that eliminated a statutory seven-day waiting period for Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits. AB 2587 removes a sentence that still referenced this waiting period rule in another section of the PFL statute to make the law consistent.
Prior to January 1, 2018, there was a seven-day waiting period before PFL benefits could begin. If employers required an employee to take up to two weeks of earned but unused vacation before receiving PFL benefits, they could apply this vacation time to the seven-day waiting period.
When the law eliminated the waiting period, there was still a reference in the law to applying unused vacation time to the waiting period. AB 2587 simply erases that outdated reference. There are no other substantive changes to the vacation rule: Employers can still require the use of vacation time (up to two weeks) when an employee applies for PFL benefits.