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New California Laws Change Sexual Harassment Landscape

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 French law “for the freedom to choose one’s professional future” – Part 2. How it makes gender equality a reality in companies.

September 17, 2018

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Forty-five years after the law “for professional equality,” the wage gap between women and men persists. In order to overcome this, the law “for the freedom to choose one’s professional future” imposes new measures on companies. The French law “for the freedom to choose one’s professional future” was definitively adopted on 1 August 2018 by the French Parliament and approved on 4 September by the Constitutional Council (Decision No. 2018-769 DC of 4 September 2018); it was published in the Journal Officiel on 6 September 2018.

The overriding principle is that all employers must have as an objective the removal of the pay gap between women and men (new article L. 1142-7 of the Labor Code). Further, while there is no penalty for non-compliance with this principle in itself, certain provisions of the law are mandatory and subject to sanctions if not respected.

Of particular note are provisions that apply

The French law “for the freedom to choose one’s professional future” – Part 1. Preventive measures against sexual harassment and sexual behavior in companies.

September 14, 2018

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The French law “for the freedom to choose one’s professional future” definitively adopted on 1 August 2018 by the French Parliament and approved on 4 September by the Constitutional Council (Decision No. 2018-769 DC of 4 September 2018) was published in the Journal Officiel on 6 September 2018. The law strengthens the fight against sexual harassment and sexist behavior in companies.

Under the new law, by 1 January 2019 at the latest, certain employers will be required to take measures to combat sexual harassment and sexist behavior in the workplace:

  • The obligation to appoint the following points of contact:

(i) A point of contact in companies with at least 250 employees, responsible for guiding, informing and supporting employees in the fight against sexual harassment and sexist behavior (new article L. 1153-5-1 of the French Labor Code). The objective is to enable victims of such acts to identify a

Impending Changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act: What Every Employer Needs to Know

Responding in part to the #MeToo movement, state and local governments have begun expanding protections for those alleging discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  Last month, the Illinois General Assembly passed a series of amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“the IHRA”) that may have a significant impact on employers if they are signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner.

  • House Bill 4572: Currently, the IHRA applies to employers who employ 15 or more employees within Illinois for at least 20 weeks per year.  HB 4572 would essentially cover all Illinois employers—any employer who employs one or more employee for at least 20 weeks per year.
  • Senate Bill 20: SB 20 makes several changes to the procedures of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) and the Human Rights Commission (“the Commission”). Among other things, SB 20 would:
    • Extend the charge-filing period from 180 days

New York Passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Measures: What All Employers Must Know

On April 12, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York state budget into law.  Beyond the dollars and cents associated with a typical budget bill, the legislation included new requirements for private and public employers to address sexual harassment in the workplace. While effective dates for the various measures are staggered over the next year, employers should start preparing now to comply with each provision:

  • Effective immediately: The budget bill amended the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit harassment against “non-employees” who provide services under a contract, including contractors, vendors, and consultants. If an employer knew or should have known that a protected “non-employee” was sexually harassed at its office or workplace, the employer may be liable if it does not take appropriate action.
  • Effective July 9, 2018: Employers may include nondisclosure/confidentiality clauses in settlement or release agreements dealing with sexual harassment claims only if the

Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” Part 6: Closing the Investigation and Additional Steps Thereafter

This final installment of a six-part series on harassment investigations discusses how to close the investigation and steps to take after the investigation has been closed.  As always, bear in mind that each harassment investigation is different and must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.

Close the Investigation

Once the investigation has concluded, it is essential to close the investigation with the complainant, each witness, and the accused.  It may also be prudent, in some circumstances, to follow-up with the entire workforce. All close-out meetings that are held should be documented. When closing the investigation with the complainant, and generally with each witness, here are the key points to tell each person:

  • We are closing our investigation based on the information as we know it now. (This allows you to reopen if you learn more later.)
  • The Company has a strong non-discrimination and non-harassment policy. (Consider providing or

Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” Part 5: Other Sources of Evidence, Summarizing the Investigation, and Reaching a Conclusion

Before concluding a harassment investigation, the investigator should follow up with other possible sources of evidence, record and summarize the investigation, and reach a conclusion.  This fifth part of a six-part series discusses these final steps in the investigation process.  As always, bear in mind that each harassment investigation is different and must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.

Follow Up With Other Possible Sources of Evidence

The investigator should consider whether any other sources of evidence exist that could aid in the investigation process and gather any such evidence. If the evidence is in the possession of either the complainant or the accused, the investigator should ask that the evidence be shared with him/her.

Some examples of physical evidence that may aid in the investigation process are:

  • Time cards
  • Calendars or diaries
  • Telephone records
  • Travel logs
  • Expense reports
  • Notes, letters, cards, and/or handwriting samples
  • Emails, voice mails,

Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” Part 4: Note-Taking Techniques and Tips for Assessing Witness Credibility

In any investigation of a harassment complaint, the investigator must interview people and take notes.  This fourth part of a six-part series addresses techniques for note-taking and tips for assessing the credibility of witnesses.  As always, bear in mind that each harassment investigation is different and must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.

Helpful Witness Interview Note-Taking Techniques

Make sure that your notes are legible and that they are clear on who said and did what and which part of the story is according to whom.

Start a new page for each interview.

At the top of the page, state the names of those present at an interview, the date, time and place of the interview.  Sign (or initial) and date the notes.

Although it is not necessary to write in complete sentences, the notes should be free from misspellings or grammatical errors so that the interviewer is not

Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” Part 3: Interviewing the Accused and Other Witnesses

You have received a complaint of harassment and interviewed the complainant.  In this third part of a six-part series, we discuss interviewing the accused and other witnesses.  As always, bear in mind that each harassment investigation is different and must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.

Interviewing the Accused

At the beginning of the meeting, the investigator should:

  • Explain that a complaint of sexual (racial, etc.) harassment has been brought against the accused; that the Company is conducting a prompt and thorough investigation to determine if inappropriate conduct has occurred; and that no conclusion has yet been reached.
  • Identify your role as investigator.
  • Tell the accused that the Company prohibits retaliation against a complainant, and anyone the accused suspects may have participated in any way in the investigation.
  • Explain that the accused must provide a truthful account of what occurred, and identify all evidence and witnesses who may

Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” Part 2: Interviewing the Complainant and Planning the Remainder of the Investigation

You have received a complaint of harassment.  What next?  In this second part of a six-part series, we focus on interviewing the complainant and planning the remainder of the investigation.  As always, bear in mind that each harassment investigation is different and must be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.

The interview of the complainant is usually the first and most important interview that will be conducted, and therefore, should be carefully planned beforehand. This interview, and all others, should be conducted in a private, neutral meeting space at your location. The following provides an illustration of the areas that should be covered by the investigator during the interview of the complainant.

At the beginning of the meeting, the investigator should:

  • Identify his/her role as investigator (i.e., you are a neutral conducting an investigation on behalf of the Company).
  • Ask the complainant whether he/she is comfortable with the investigator
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