In an attempt to prevent workplace bullying, Governor Davis signed into law AB 2053 in 2014, requiring that California supervisors be trained on “prevention of abusive conduct” in the workplace.
This bill expands existing law related to sexual harassment training for supervisory employees. Since 2005, California requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees every two years (or within six months of assuming supervisory duties). This new measure mandates that the subject matter for these trainings be expanded to include prevention of abusive conduct.
The new law defines “abusive conduct” as “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.”
Abusive 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 measure specifies that a single act does not constitute abusive conduct unless it is “especially severe and egregious.”
According to the proponents of the legislation, abusive work environments are “a growing epidemic throughout the nation that can reduce productivity and morale.” The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that in a 2014 survey, 27% of Americans claim to have suffered abusive conduct at work and 72% are aware that workplace bullying happens.
The new law does not mandate the specific content of the required new training. Nor does it specify how much time should be allocated to the new training. For now, employers should review the agenda of any harassment training to ensure the topic of abusive conduct and bullying is addressed, that the terms are defined and that supervisory employees are trained on the workplace rules (if any) governing workplace conduct, the complaint mechanism for employees who are subject to or observe abusive conduct, and the consequences of abusive conduct in the workplace.