On Sunday September 30, 2018, while many of us were busy setting our Fantasy Football lineups, outgoing Governor Jerry Brown signed a number of work-related bills arising in response to the #MeToo movement that will substantially alter employers’ exposure to liability for workplace harassment, prohibit many common practices used to reduce adverse publicity surrounding workplace harassment claims, and impose additional training and inclusion requirements.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT OMNIBUS BILL, SB 1300

The most far-reaching of the new laws is SB 1300, the Sexual Harassment Omnibus Bill, which amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).  Under SB 1300, FEHA will now expressly affirm some harassment-related court decisions and disavow others, embedding into the statute the following legal concepts and ever-expanding scope:

  • The plaintiff in a workplace harassment suit is only required to prove that a reasonable person subjected to the discriminatory conduct would find, as the plaintiff did, that the harassment so altered working conditions as to make it more difficult to do his or her job.  It is not necessary to show a tangible decline in productivity.
  • A single incident of harassing conduct is sufficient to create a triable issue regarding the existence of a hostile work environment if the harassing conduct has unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance or created an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.  (Here, SB 1300 expressly rejects a decision authored by #MeToo casualty Alex Kolinski, a former judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which provided that a one-time physical encounter was