A California Chamber of Commerce-sponsored job creator bill that will enable businesses to avoid hiring repeat sexual harassment offenders, ending the cycle of harassment in industries across California, unanimously passed the Assembly 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.
“It is apparent that California law is not providing enough protection to sexual harassment victims and California employers,” said CalChamber Policy Advocate Laura Curtis. “AB 2770 gives employees more protection from harassment by clarifying the victims’ and employers’ rights to curb harassment without the threat of defamation lawsuits.”
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 72-0 on May 7.
The bill now moves to the Senate.