The topic of sexual harassment and discrimination has been a focus of national headlines the past few years. The business world continues to strive to provide workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination, and enforcement agencies have continued to add more prevention requirements for employers.
California has led the charge in that regard. Last year, state lawmakers passed several laws to combat harassment in the workplace. One of those laws is the Stop Harassment and Reporting Extension Act (SHARE).
A closer look at the SHARE Act
The SHARE Act extended the time that employees have to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) about unlawful:
- Harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment;
- Discrimination against protected statuses; and
- Retaliation for reporting harassment and discrimination.
In the past, employees had one year from the date an alleged unlawful practice occurred to file a claim with the DFEH. Now, the SHARE Act has extended the FEHA statute of limitations from one year to three years.
How does this impact businesses?
There are a few important things that business owners should know about how the SHARE Act will impact them:
- The one-year statute of limitations still applies to cases in the past. Employees will not be able to file or rekindle cases for which the one-year statute of limitations already expired as of January 1, 2020.
- However, in the future, employers may be faced with lawsuits regarding events that occurred three years prior. One of the reasons Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2018, was because he recognized that businesses will have greater challenges to collect evidence to refute or even settle dated claims if witnesses leave the company, or companies do not keep proper records of the incident. Unfortunately, Governor Newsom did not share that concern.
- Employers must take great care to respond efficiently and effectively if there is a complaint of harassment, discrimination or retaliation from an employee. Conducting a review of the company’s current investigation practices and record-keeping strategy would be prudent. Employers must always take complaints of harassment or discrimination seriously. Effective policies and strategies to handle these incidents can significantly reduce risk. Policies against unlawful harassment and discrimination should be distributed to all employees.