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Sexual harassment, family leave among workplace laws changing in Cali.

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In a list of proposed changes for state workplace laws, the California Chamber of Commerce included sexual harassment, family leave expansion and attorney's fees.

According to the San Francisco Gate, the changes are part of an annual revision of labor laws that is scheduled to take place the following calendar year, adding to list of reasons why employers need to stay up to date on their business insurance

Here are a few shifts employers in the state should be aware of:

Widening scope of family leave
The bill detailing the proposed changes in family issues, SB 770, includes a provision that aims to widen the definition of 'family' within the state's Paid Family Leave program. Beginning July 1, 2014, workers who pay into the State Disability Fund are eligible to receive partial payouts to cover costs associated with hospice and other expenses related to elder care. The provision also will cover non-traditional recipients such as grandchildren and in-laws, as well as registered domestic partners. 

Definitions of sexual harassment
Another major change, SB 292, expands the current definition of sexual harassment at the workplace to include language that incorporates harassment not driven by sexual desire into legislation. Although the measure was already being upheld in court under case law, the motion puts the bill under written statute. 

Limit on employer's attorney fees
Perhaps one of the most important changes for employers to take note of is SB 462, a measure that limits the awards employers can receive if they are winning defendants in wage cases. The bill is a revision of section 218.5 in the California Labor Code that states prevailing employers can recover attorneys' fees. However, the statute only applies if the court finds that the employee brought about the lawsuit solely to cause harm, or in bad faith.

This change is significant to employers in the state who do not have business insurance, such as professional liability or employment practices liability insurance, to protect their assets. 

For example, on Nov. 8, a grand jury in Anniston City, Ala.,  awarded Kay Dodd $400,000 after it found basis for retaliation following sexual harassment, according to the Anniston Star. The alleged retaliation aggressor was David Dawson, a former Anniston City councilman, who was named in the suit alongside Dodd's former employer Regional Medical Center, Anniston Pathology Management Services and a fellow medical center employee, Tim Jones. 

In situations such as this, where an employer is found negligent and is required to forfeit a settlement, the necessity of business insurance is amplified due to its fundamental purpose of mitigating employer costs related to lawsuits. 

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