A California Chamber of Commerce-sponsored job creator bill that codifies case law to ensure victims of sexual harassment and employers are not sued for defamation won unanimous bipartisan approval from an Assembly committee this week.
AB 2770 (Irwin; D-Thousand Oaks) protects an employer’s ability to warn potential employers about an individual’s harassing conduct without the threat of a defamation lawsuit when responding to a reference check.
The bill also protects employees from defamation lawsuits for reporting sexual harassment allegations to employers or official agencies.
Alleged harassers are not only suing victims, but also filing suit against employers for defamation. Such lawsuits put employers in an impossible position as they have an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct harassment.
Worse, if the alleged harasser’s employment is then terminated, or the alleged harasser resigns, employers are put in an even more difficult position. The company has knowledge of the harassing activity and yet its hands are tied.
If the company tells a potential employer that the employee was accused of harassing conduct, the company is on the hook for a defamation claim. If the company stays silent, the harassers are then free to victimize more individuals at their next job without anyone at the new company ever knowing about the unacceptable behavior.
By addressing this situation, AB 2770 will reduce frivolous lawsuits and allow an employer to use the financial resources that would have been diverted to litigation to grow its workforce instead.
AB 2770 passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 1, 10-0:
Ayes: Chau (D-Monterey Park), Chiu (D-San Francisco), Cunningham (R-Templeton), Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), Holden (D-Pasadena), Kalra (D-San Jose), Kiley (R-Granite Bay), Maienschein (R-San Diego), Reyes (D-Grand Terrace), M. Stone (D-Scotts Valley).
The bill will be considered next by the entire Assembly.