New laws effective in 2019 will impact how courts in California weigh claims of sexual harassment, and how employers in the state address and take action. A Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney will be able to help you gain a better handle on the changes to these processes and what it might mean for new claims against individuals and employers.
Five new advisory principles are now included in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), effectively meaning employers are going to face more possibility of liability for discrimination. It’s not that the laws were intended to drum up more possibility of litigation, but rather that they would improve working conditions for women and others vulnerable to sexual harassment on the job or at school.
The specific effect will be that if these five principles are applied by California courts, there will be less likelihood that those claiming to be victims of sexual harassment will have their claims dismissed prior to trial. As Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys can explain, they will still have the responsibility to prove the harassment was severe or pervasive. However, these new rules will also lessen that burden.
New Rules for 2019 Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Claims, Explained
- No. 1. A claimant alleging sexual harassment will not need to prove that his or her productivity dipped as a result of defendant’s actions. Instead, just showing the purported sexual harassment would have made it tougher for a reasonable person to do his or her job will be sufficient.
No. 2. A single incident of sexual harassment will be enough for a plaintiff to beat the summary judgment phase, so long as plaintiff can show the harassment unreasonably interfered with worker’s job performance and/ or created a hostile work environment.
- No. 3. A single offensive remark not connected to a worker’s firing or other negative employment action or even one that’s not made by a supervisor, manager or other decision-maker CAN be used as evidence that one was subjected to a hostile work environment under the definition California’s sexual harassment law.
- No. 4. Almost all workplaces can be held to the same legal standard when ascertaining if sexual harassment occurred. As Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys can explain, that’s gong to mean auto repair shops and entertainment news outlets are going to be held to the same standards as bookstores and law firms. The only exception will be if engaging in or witnessing some type of sexually-explicit or related content is somehow inherent to the job. (This exception arose from the California Supreme Court decision in 2006 decided against a “Friends” writers’ assistant, who unsuccessfully argued the sexually-charged discussions in story development amounted to sexual harassment.) Lawmakers say the exception does allow for unique circumstances like this, but makes it clear that this kind of conduct has to be somehow central to one’s job duties, rather than simply, “how it is around here.”
- No. 5. It will be the exception rather than the norm for sexual harassment cases to be dismissed upon summary judgment. Instead, the general thinking is such cases are better off assessed on the totality of the circumstances by a judge or jury.
These principles don’t dictate how judges are going to decide Los Angeles sexual harassment claims, but they do give claimants much more of a fighting chance than before to actually win. It’s ultimately going to be for the courts to decide how to interpret these principles, but by specifying them, state lawmakers have made clear their intent based on appropriate legal standards.
It also means companies are going to have a harder time stamping out these claims preemptively, and employers can’t condition any raises, bonuses, ongoing employment or other employment benefit by having an employee sign any paperwork indicating they don’t have any pending sexual harassment claims.
Ultimately, Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers opine this is probably going to mean a fair number of employee handbooks in California are going to need to be revised.
Another provision of the law mandates more employer training on sexual harassment, with more specifications as to the type of employees who will need to be trained, and how.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
New principles to help courts clarify sexual harassment laws in California, Oct. 29, 2018, By Dan Eaton, The San Diego Union Tribune
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California Sexual Harassment Allegations Plague University President, Oct. 15, 2018, Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog