AB 2053 Employers Must Provide Supervisorial Training on "Abusive Conduct"
Effective January 1, 2015, employers that are already required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors must additionally provide training on "abusive conduct." Since 2006, employers with 50 or more employees have been required to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors. The training must be provided within six months of the time the employee becomes a supervisor, and every two years thereafter. California AB 2053 now imposes the additional requirement on these employers to "include prevention of abusive conduct as a component" of the required sexual harassment training. This training is intended to prevent bullying in the workplace and hopefully decrease the incidence of workplace harassment.
Under the new AB 2053 law, "abusive conduct" is defined as conduct that a "reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer's legitimate business interests." While "[a]busive 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," the law provides that "[a] single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious."
The California Assembly Bill 2053 does not detail what is to be included in the training component on "prevention of abusive conduct." Nor does it quantify how much of the two-hour training should be dedicated to the "prevention of abusive conduct." Employers should consult with their "approved trainers" to incorporate this material into their sexual harassment training programs. Under the law, approved trainers include attorneys who have been in practice for at least two years and have practiced employment law, certain human resource professionals, and certain professors and instructors.
If an employer violates the new California AB 2053 training requirements, it may be subject to a court order or an order from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing requiring compliance. Employers can also expect compliance, or the alleged lack of compliance, to come up in various types of employment litigation.