Should You Follow California’s Lead – Define Abusive Conduct?

California AB 1825 has required two hours of harassment training every two years for all employees. Last year, the California governor signed AB2053, requiring abusive conduct training be added to the content.

So what’s abusive conduct, according to AB 2053? “Abusive conduct” means, “…conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.”

As with harassment, a single act is not abusive conduct, unless of course it’s “severe and egregious.” The descriptive language of AB 2053 is potentially confusing as it is limited but also very broad. Three categories of conduct are provided:

  1. Repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets,
  2. Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or
  3. The gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.

Covering the current training with the addition of AB2053 may be challenging. Here are a few things that will be necessary to remember:

  1. Draw a distinction between prohibited harassment and abusive conduct;
  2. Explain to managers that abusive conduct is not tolerated and must be addressed;
  3. Help managers understand how to spot abusive conduct;
  4. Help managers understand how to respond when an employee raises a concern about abusive conduct; and
  5. Hold employees and managers accountable when they engage in abusive conduct.

California and Tennessee are currently the only two states with laws requiring training on abusive conduct in the workplace. But, OSHA has suggested and enforced Workplace Violence guidelines for close to twenty years. Employers must rise to the occasion and protect workers by educating them. Zero tolerance policies must be enforced by employers. Management all the way to the top must be invested and accountable to the same policies as all workers. Follow California’s lead. Obey OSHA guidelines. Set the bar. Say NO to abuse.

Until next time,

Keep Calm and Employ On!


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