New Laws for 2019 – Sexual Harassment and Confidentiality – Libel and Slander

Still another bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018 to protect victims of sexual harassment and abuse is AB 2770. The aim of this bill is to protect victims and employer by addressing concerns about when complaints about sexual harassment might escalate into a defamation lawsuit.

Prior law

Prior California law, according to the bill, provided two types of actions for false communications:

  • Libel This is the “false and unprivileged written publication that injures” a person’s reputation.
  • Slander. This is a “false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered, that injures the reputation.”

The prior law also provided that some communications and publications were privileged – meaning, they were protected from civil actions. These privileged communications include some communications involving a worker’s job performance or the worker’s qualifications for employment – provided the communications aren’t made with malice. The communications that are protected generally involve communications by a former employer to a possible new employer. Generally, a prospective employer could ask the former employer if the prior employer would rehire the worker.

The new bill

The new bill adds the following communications to the list of privileged communications:

  • Complaints of sexual harassment by an employee made to an employer – “based on credible evidence” without malice
  • “Communications between the employer and interested persons regarding a complaint of sexual harassment”

The bill “Would authorize an employer to answer, without malice, whether the employer would rehire an employee and whether or not a decision to not rehire is based on the employer’s determination that the former employee engaged in sexual harassment.”

The bill likely would protect other communications regarding sexual harassment, according to a recent National Law Review article, such as communications between an employer and relevant state or federal agencies.

Understand how your sexual harassment rights

At the law offices of Stephen Danz & Associates, we understand your federal and California sexual harassment rights. We file government and civil actions if an employer creates a hostile work environment. We protect workers when employers retaliate because you or someone you know supported a worker who was being sexually harassed. To learn if you have a claim, call (877)789-9707 to make an appointment. We’re ready to fight for you.  Se habla espanol.