In 2015, California Assembly Bill 2053 was enacted to augment AB 1825’s principles and restrictions. All employers with 50 or more employees must provide their supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment prevention training every two years under AB 1825. The AB 2053 amendment requires that the training include instructions on abusive behavior, also known as “bullying.”
In addition to the already-required sexual harassment training, AB 2053 compels covered firms to offer supervisors with training on how to prevent abusive workplace behavior.
Repeated verbal abuse, such as disparaging remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical action that an individual would find threatening, frightening, humiliating, or gratuitous sabotage or undermine a person’s work performance, are all examples of abusive conduct. Unless the behavior is very severe and outrageous, a single act does not constitute abusive conduct.
What is Abusive Conduct According to AB 2053?
Workplace conduct that a reasonable person would find unfriendly, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business objectives is described as abusive conduct under California Government Code.
Verbal abuse, intimidation tactics, threatening verbal or physical behavior, and humiliation that impairs an individual’s ability to work are examples of abusive conduct.
Abusive workplace conduct is simply workplace bullying that occurs frequently enough to cause one or more employees grief, to the point that it interferes with their ability to perform their jobs. Differences of opinion or interpersonal confrontations do not necessarily constitute abusive conduct without pervasively malevolent, hostile, threatening, inappropriate, or discriminating purposes or acts.
Abusive conduct is among numerous sorts of harassment that can lead to a “hostile workplace environment,” which falls under the broader legal category of “workplace discrimination,” which is illegal on federal and state levels.
To qualify as causing a “Hostile Work Environment,” abusive behavior must meet both of the following criteria:
- Gender, sexual orientation, race, marital status, and other “protected class” traits are used to target a victim.
- Bullying/harassment is “severe or pervasive.”
There are a few exceptions to these requirements. If the victim is subjected to sexual harassment or faces an immediate threat to their personal safety, the inappropriate behavior does not need to be targeted (physical and sexual assault included).
What Constitutes as Hostile & Disrespectful Conduct According to a Reasonable Person?
The “reasonable person standard” is used to evaluate instances of abusive conduct and other unlawful harassment. Whenever an employee files a harassment complaint with HR, the company assigns or engages an internal or external evaluator to investigate the accusation.
In order to be as neutral as possible, this evaluator imagines the incident from the perspective of an “ordinary” individual who would find themselves in the victim’s situation.
A “reasonable person” is not somebody who over-or under-reacts to social scenarios and whose views and judgments are believed to be typical of a “normal” way to feel in those situations. The “reasonable person” criteria, on the other hand, does not rule out taking into account the victim’s “protected status,” on which they were mistreated.
If an employee reports being singled out for homophobic abuse, for example, the evaluator must examine how such an experience might feel from the perspective of an LGBTQ employee, for whom the abusive experience may be compounded by many previous negative experiences the same type.
Examples of acts of workplace abuse or hostility that a “reasonable” person would find unacceptable include, but are not limited to:
- Use of disparaging terms, such as “honey” and “sweetie” by a male coworker, on a regular basis (indeed, words that would be considered “terms of endearment” in intimate interpersonal relationships can be legally considered “verbal abuse” in the workplace setting.)
- Frequently made jokes on a person’s religious views, gender, sexual preferences, national origins, and so forth.
- Without an employee’s consent, “messing” with their personal belongings or work tools.
- Physical touch that is uninvited or unwarranted.
- Excluding/isolating a specific individual from typical job tasks on purpose.
Benefits of Sexual Harassment and Abusive Conduct Training
One of the pillars of a comprehensive approach to combat harassment and other forms of inappropriate behavior is to provide training.
All employees should be fully accountable to help in creating a respectful, safe workplace. They should take part in training that gives them the knowledge and skills they need to understand the interrelationship between preventing harassment, discrimination, anti-retaliation training, bias, and other forms of workplace conduct and constructing a favorable, inclusive work environment.
Employees can benefit from sexual harassment training in a variety of ways. Here are five of them:
- Improves the culture of your workplace
It can enhance and develop an organization’s culture by expressing its values, goals, and policies in unique and relevant ways that drive people to act ethically while also safeguarding their reputation.
- Raises knowledge of acceptable and unacceptable behavior
Harassment in the workplace has always been a problem. Recognizing the various types of misconduct is essential in inspiring employees to respond when they witness or experience it.
One of the most effective and efficient ways to enhance knowledge of the various sorts of inappropriate behavior – from the obvious to the subtle – and remove doubt about unacceptable behavior is through training. Training can explain gray areas and demonstrate how undesired conduct that goes unchecked can become harassment or discrimination by using genuine examples and other relevant topics.
- Conveys a powerful message from the higher authorities
Companies can convey a clear message that we’re all in this together when it comes to eliminating harassment and other harmful behavior and ensuring a respectful workplace by requiring all employees to participate in training on a regular basis.
- Bystanders are given more power
Bystander intervention training, with the cooperation of senior management, might be a game-changer in the workplace. Bystander intervention training can help employees feel a sense of collective responsibility and enable them to be active bystanders in harassment prevention.
Individuals who participate in bystander intervention training learn how to interrupt or stop harassing behavior while simultaneously supporting a coworker or colleague. Furthermore, the bystander role is a constructive one that gives people a different perspective on the repercussions of harassing conduct on others as well as the target.
- Motivates individuals to report things
Most instances of harassment and discrimination go unreported, leading to a toxic workplace. This can impact employee morale and productivity, as well as recruiting and retention efforts and all other sources of customer connection or external partnerships.
By training, workers can be taught and motivated to report incidents or potential problems. Training can be one of the most straightforward methods for organizations to explain their official complaint procedure and raise knowledge about their ethical hotline, dedicated email, and other reporting channels.
Employees at all levels and locations must be able to recognize and report unacceptable or abusive conduct, as well as respond to and support coworkers and colleagues who may experience it in today’s dynamic workplace. Training on anti-harassment and anti-discrimination can be a strategic tool for teaching, influencing, and driving positive behavior and change within your organization.