New California law directs larger employers to engage in workplace bullying training and education for supervisors

Earlier this week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation (Assembly Bill No. 2053) requiring employers of 50 or more workers to engage in training and education for supervisors concerning workplace bullying.

The legislation amends an existing California law requiring covered employers to engage in training and education for sexual harassment. These employers are now directed to include “prevention of abusive conduct” in their supervisor training and education programs. The definition of “abusive conduct” draws heavily from versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill, covering:

…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. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

The California law does not, however, create a legal claim for workplace bullying. Nevertheless, it is an important step forward and constitutes further recognition of the need for our legal system to respond to workplace bullying. This law follows legislation enacted by Tennessee earlier this year directing a state commission to develop a model workplace anti-bullying policy for the state’s public employers.

I’ll have more to say about these developments in a later post.

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