California Labor Law Update: Changes in Sexual Harassment Protection

New employment laws or amendments to existing laws are passed by the California legislature every year. The changes can directly impact the relationship between an employer and their employees as well as how they run their business. 2014 saw dozens of new labor laws go into effect.  

One important change that occurred in 2014 was a result of an amendment to Government Code 12940. It clarifies the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace. After a 2013 appellate decision, there was a question as to whether or not there needed to be sexual desire on the part of the perpetrator in order to establish a legitimate sexual harassment claim. Bill 292 addressed this issue.

The California legislature passed Senate Bill 292 in 2013 and we saw it go into effect on January 1, 2014. This amendment to the previous employment law defining sexual harassment in the workplace in California redefines the issue: sexual harassment is prohibited under California law without regard to the sexual desire of the perpetrator. It was reasoned that sexual harassment (like other forms of harassment) isn’t necessarily motivated by desire. In fact, harassment of all types is more often motivated by hostility. The passing of this bill addressed the confusion in the California courts regarding whether or not a sexual harassment claim can be established without a basis of desire. Senate Bill 292 clarifies what the California courts have been recognizing for years: that sexual motive or desire isn’t necessary in order to establish a sexual harassment claim and bring action against an employer. 

If you or someone you know has questions about what constitutes a sexual harassment claim or if you feel you work in a hostile work environment get in touch with the employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.