California sexual harassment claimants can now make allegations, undeterred by the prospect of being hit back with a defamation lawsuit that turns the tables and the proof burden back on them. The change, formally in effect as of Jan. 1, 2019, came after state lawmakers last year heard testimony from experts who were clear in showing how such defamation laws had been used for decades to protect harassers. As Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys can explain, the long-existing law gives those who claim to be falsely accused and suffering damage to reputation as a result to pursue litigation for false and unprivileged statements – written or oral – made about them by either former co-workers or their previous employer. Basically if the sexual harassment was not unequivocally proven, the person who made the allegation or the former employer could be responsible to pay damages for defamation.
In order to sidestep this outcome, the new law, AB 2770, considers such communications – specifically regarding sexual harassment – to be “privileged.” Some types of communication was already considered privileged under the law, such as that of a former employer to a prospective employer regarding job qualifications and performance of an applicant for a job. The new measure simply extends that scope now to also encompass statements pertaining to employees in California accused of sexual harassment. Specifically, it protects what former employers can say about whether they would rehire an applicant on the basis of the company’s determination of sexual harassment alleged to have been committed by the worker.
The law also contains a special portion that elevates communications and complaints about sexual harassment made from other employees to the employer to the level of “privileged.” Continue reading