Los Angles partner Mark Terman was quoted in a Law360 article titled, “Calif. Anti-Bullying Law To Add Fuel To Worker Litigation.” The article discussed how the new law will require company supervisors to undergo anti-bullying training. Excerpts follow.
“This is the first step by the California Legislature of what will eventually be an effort to change the law to make this defined bullying behavior unlawful in and of itself in the workplace,” Mark Terman, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, said. “To put in a training requirement without anything else seems like a shot across the bow by the California Legislature, and it’s something that employers should pay attention to.”
“Verbal abuse is often in the eye of the beholder — or the ear of the listener,” Terman said. “As specific as this law tries to be, it’s still a very subjective issue. Every day in workplaces, kind and unkind things are said, some thought through and some in the moment. I believe the statute was well intended to deal with an issue recognized by a society in desire of less abusive conduct. But what is abusive depends on the circumstances of the workplace. And this is an effort to try to put objective words on a concept that is often very subjective.”
The issue of abusive conduct routinely arises in nearly every employment discrimination case, but now that the state Legislature has tried to define what abusive conduct is, employees and plaintiffs counsel will be encouraged to use the definition to add more heft to their case for discrimination, according to Terman.
“It gives employees' counsel something else to argue in support of their claim, and if an employer fails to do the training, even though that is not independently actionable, it will help plaintiffs counsel try to discredit the employer in front of a jury,” he said.
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