AB 2053: Navigating California’s New AbusiveConduct Training Regulation
Ingrid Fredeen, J.D., Vice President of Advisory Services, NAVEX Global
New California legislation requires additional abusive conduct training obligation for managers covered under AB 1825.
What Has Changed? The newly-enacted California state law AB-2053: Employment Discrimination or Harassment: Education and Training: Abusive Conduct adds an additional training obligation on employers covered under AB 1825. These employers must now provide managers with training on the prevention of “abusive conduct.”
Who Does it Impact? All employers that conduct business in California and have 50 or more employees must comply with AB 2053 (and AB 1825).
What Do I Need to Do? Employers are required to provide managers with two hours of harassment training (under AB 1825) and additional training on prevention of abusive conduct (under AB 2053) every two years— and within six months for newly hired or promoted managers.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Since 2004, companies conducting business in California that have 50 or more employees have been required to provide their mangers with sexual harassment prevention training under California state law AB 1825.
On September 9, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2053 into law, mandating that employers covered under AB 1825 add prevention of abusive conduct (bullying) training into their current workplace harassment training program.
Navigating the Gray Areas: What AB 2053 Does—and Does Not—Include
AB 2053 does not explicitly prohibit “abusive conduct.” It does mandate prevention training on this topic.
The law does not provide guidance on what must be covered in the training, or identify any minimum training time requirements.
Like harassment training under AB 1825, AB 2053 training can be delivered either live or online.
The law defines “abusive conduct” to mean, “…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.”
The descriptive language in AB 2053 is very broad and includes the following categories of conduct:
Like harassment, a single act is not considered to be abusive conduct, unless it’s “severe and egregious”
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
The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance
What Training Changes Will I Need to Make to Comply With AB 2053?
To effectively cover this content in a harassment course, organizations will need to add new content to their existing AB 1825 compliant training programs. The new training should:
Draw a distinction between prohibited harassment and abusive conduct (which is not technically unlawful harassment)
Explain to managers that abusive conduct is not tolerated and must be addressed
Help managers understand how to spot abusive conduct
Help managers understand how to respond when an employee raises a concern about abusive conduct
Hold employees and managers accountable should they engage in abusive conduct
NAVEX GLOBAL’S AB 2053 TRAINING SOLUTIONS
NAVEX Global is committed to providing our clients with workplace harassment training that complies with California training requirements, including the new requirement under AB 2053. Please contact your NAVEX Global account executive, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions— or to discuss your organization’s training needs and challenges.
ADDRESSING ABUSIVE CONDUCT BEFORE IT BEGINS: SIX STEPS TO TAKE TO STRENGTHEN YOUR CULTURE OF COMPLIANCE
The new legislation is not the only reason to address abusive conduct in the workplace: workplace bullying is a drain on productivity and employee morale. Left unaddressed, abusive conduct can—and often does— quickly escalate into unlawful harassment.
Some simple things employers can do to address abusive workplace conduct include:
Adopt a clear policy and set of expectations around abusive conduct and bullying. (Access NAVEX Global’s free Global Anti-Harassment and Bullying Sample Policy).
As outlined above, train managers and employees about what is expected of them. Consider deploying short-form or burst training, deploy a full-length course on workplace violence prevention or add content to your current workplace harassment training.
If you have employees and managers whose abusive behavior has been tolerated, let them know that the rules are changing and they will need to adjust their behavior accordingly.
Educate employees and managers about how and when to make a report about abusive conduct.
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Investigate all allegations of abusive conduct thoroughly and promptly; hold employees and managers responsible when they violate rules.
Assess your workplace culture—find out if bullying and abusive conduct continues to be an issue, and then devise a plan to improve your approach.
For more information about detailed training requirements for AB 1825/AB 2053 see: AB 1825 Sexual Harassment Training Mandates – Legal Brief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ingrid Fredeen, J.D., vice president of advisory services, has been specializing in ethics and legal compliance training for more than 10 years. She has been the principal design and content developer for NAVEX Global’s online training course initiatives utilizing her more than 15 years of specialization in employment law and legal compliance. Prior to joining NAVEX Global, Ingrid worked both as a litigator with Littler Mendelson, the world’s largest employment law firm, and as in-house corporate counsel for General Mills, Inc.
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