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New California law concerns sexual harassment litigation

Previous posts in this blog address the possibility of an employer’s retaliation against an employee for accusing someone in the workplace of sexual harassment. Whether a person is unfairly demoted, terminated or otherwise disciplined for reporting sexual harassment, retaliation is just as unlawful as the harassment itself. A new law serves to protect California employees from one type of retaliation – defamation litigation – after accusing someone of sexual harassment.

Capital Public Radio reports that the law will be in effect on the first of the year and is meant to prevent those accused of sexual harassment from retaliating by filing defamation lawsuits against their accusers. An example of such retaliatory litigation concerned a woman who was sued for defamation by her manager after asking him not to use inappropriate and potentially offensive language in front of a young, new intern.

It is important to note that the law protects those who are reporting sexual harassment in good faith – which means that the employee must have a legitimate reason to believe that he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment at work by a superior, co-worker, customer or other person encountered on the job. A person who deliberately and falsely accuses an associate of sexual harassment out of malice or mischief could still be sued for defamation or face other action, including discipline by an employer. Sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and discrimination in the workplace are complex topics and, therefore, usually require competent legal counsel for all involved.

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