May 5, 2014
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez District 80
Re: In Support of AB2053: Prevention of Abusive Conduct
Dear Assemblywoman Gonzalez:
As a group of individuals from a variety of states dedicated to the adoption of approaches that deter bullying in the workplace (i.e., abusive conduct), we are writing to offer our support for AB2053, that will require “abusive conduct” be included in sexual harassment training for businesses with 50+ employees.
To our knowledge, at this time the only state that has a state-wide law addressing workplace bullying is Nevada. NRS 388.121-139: Safe and Respectful Learning Environment prohibits students and adults from engaging “in bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment or intimidation” (NRS 388.135). Unfortunately this law only provides protection from “equal-opportunity harassment” to adults working in the school system.
We would like to suggest one revision: that “malice” be removed from the definition of “abusive conduct.” We make this suggestion as research has moved away from including intention in the definition for several reasons: 1) individuals may feel abused even if the perpetrator has no intention of abusing them, 2) individuals often experience abusive conduct as intentional through their own lenses, whether it is intentional or not, 3) it is not possible to determine the prevalence of intentional behavior, and, 4) intention doesn’t matter – if one individual finds another’s behavior hostile or offensive, it should be stopped whether the behavior was intended or not. It is our position that if this bill passes into law with “malice” included, it will set the precedent for any future laws that may provide legal recourse for targets of abusive conduct; targets will have to prove intention. Meanwhile, targets of harassment or sexual harassment do not.
In any case, passage of AB2053 will make California the first state to pass a law requiring training on the topic of abusive conduct not aimed at a protected class. This is a great first step in the process of eradicating abusive conduct at work, and we offer our support. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
Catherine M. Mattice Catherine M. Mattice, MA, SPHR
(local San Diegan)
President, Civility Partners, LLC
On behalf of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition