A new law is being put into place in California as of January 1, 2014 to deal with same sex sexual harassment. Senate Bill 292, makes it possible for employees to make accusations of sexual harassment without evidence of sexual desire behind the act. Liability for this type of action can arise simply from comments made to another person, regardless of their gender.
Prior to the creation of this bill, sexual harassment claims were only validated if they could provide evidence that the harassment was motivated by sexual desire. This bill makes it possible for claims to be possible even when not motivated. As a result of this bill, it expands what the employer might be liable for should a lawsuit be brought against an employee.
For example, should a male or female make vulgar or sexually disparaging comments to a co-worker of the same sex, this would be deemed sexual harassment. An employer will now need to scrutinize comments by employees based on the content of the remarks and not just on the intent behind the words.
Due to this new law, it would be a good idea for companies in California to examine the specifics of the law, and create trainings based around the law. Employees need to be educated on what constitutes sexual harassment based on Bill 292. A proactive approach is warranted for this type of new law, teaching employees to know that certain behavior and remarks can be considered sexual harassment even if the comment is not motivated by some sort of sexual desire. Employers that don’t take these types of actions could find themselves in the middle of legal problems should an employee say something that is deemed sexual harassment under the new law.