Understanding the new domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking laws

Sat Jan 18 2014

The California State Government has expanded the role employers must play in protecting their employees from potential stalking. California law already provided protection to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; these laws have recently been extended to protect victims of stalking, as well. The updated law strengthens protections for individuals under threat, and ensures employers take reasonable steps to protect threatened employees. It is important for employers to familiarize themselves with the new regulations, and understand the steps they must take if an employee brings abuse, assault, or stalking to their attention.

The new law strengthens protections for individuals being threatened by others. California Labor Code prevents employers from threatening, discharging, discriminating against, or retaliating against any employee who reports domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers must also allow employees to take time off from work to obtain legal relief from the courts. Employers with 25 or more employees must also not penalize employees for taking time off for non-legal services, including medical and psychological counseling.

Employers must take certain steps to protect threatened employees. Once an employee has been recognized as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, employers must take reasonable steps to protect their employee against future incidents. Reasonable accommodations might include adjusting an employee’s schedule, relocating an employee’s workstation, changing their contact information, or implementing safety procedures to address potential future threats.

Make sure to update your employee handbook, accordingly. Employees have a right to know about their protections under the California Labor Code. Further, outlining ways you protect your employees promotes trust, open communication, and positive employee relations. The goal of the regulations is to ensure that your employees are safe, and are able to continue performing in their job despite the indignities they have suffered. So it is employers’ best interests to clearly communicate that these protections are available.

Call your HR consultant for guidance if an employee reports threatening behavior. The single best step you can take when an employee reports threatening behavior is to call your HR consultant. They will guide you through handling the report appropriately, in a way that fulfils your obligations as an employer and fosters trusting and respectful employee relations. They may also be able to provide several important and beneficial services, such as independent investigations and appropriate documentation of the incident, employee report, and employer response.

Do you have a plan for dealing with employee reports of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking? Call us at (818) 845-5584 or email us at info@executivehrconsulting.com to learn about the steps necessary for protecting both your employees, and yourself.