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SB-1300 Unlawful employment practices: discrimination and harassment.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 05/26/2018 04:00 AM
SB1300:v97#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  May 25, 2018
Amended  IN  Senate  April 04, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 1300


Introduced by Senator Jackson

February 16, 2018


An act to amend Sections 12940, 12950.1, and 12965 of, and to add Sections 12923 and 12964.5 to, the Government Code, relating to employment.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1300, as amended, Jackson. Unlawful employment practices: discrimination and harassment.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits various actions as unlawful employment practices unless the employer acts based upon a bona fide occupational qualification or applicable security regulations established by the United States or the State of California. In this regard, FEHA makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, apprenticeship training program, or any training program leading to employment, to engage in harassment of an employee or other specified person. FEHA also makes harassment of those persons by an employee, other than an agent or supervisor, unlawful if the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. Under FEHA, an employer may also be responsible for the acts of nonemployees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees and other specified persons, if the employer, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. An entity is required to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring. FEHA defines “employer” as any person regularly employing five 5 or more persons, or any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, the state or any political or civil subdivision of the state, and cities, except as specified.
This bill would provide that require a plaintiff in an action alleging that a defendant failed to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring, as described above, is not required to prove that the plaintiff endured harassment or discrimination and would provide that it suffices for the plaintiff to show that the employer knew that the conduct was unwelcome to the plaintiff, that the conduct would meet the legal standard for harassment or discrimination if it increased in severity or become became pervasive, and that the defendant failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the same or similar conduct from recurring.
The bill would prohibit an employer, in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment of continued employment, from requiring the execution of a release of a claim or right under FEHA or to require an employee to sign a nondisparagement agreement or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose information about unlawful acts in the workplace, including including, but not limited to, sexual harassment. The bill would provide that an agreement or document in violation of either of those prohibitions is contrary to public policy and unenforceable.
FEHA provides that an employer may be responsible for the acts of nonemployees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees, applicants, unpaid interns or volunteers, or persons providing services pursuant to a contract in the workplace, if the employer, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
This bill would instead make the above provision apply with respect to any type of harassment prohibited under FEHA of employees, applicants, unpaid interns or volunteers, or persons providing services pursuant to a contract in the workplace.
FEHA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least 2 hours of prescribed training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees within 6 months of their assumption of a supervisory position and once every 2 years, as specified.
This bill, instead, would require an employer, as defined under FEHA, to provide that training to all employees in California within 6 months of their hire and once every 2 years. The bill also would require an employer to provide bystander intervention training, as specified, and to provide information to each employee on how to report harassment and how to contact the department to make a complaint.
FEHA authorizes the court in certain circumstances and in its discretion to award the prevailing party in a civil action reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees.
This bill would provide that a prevailing defendant is prohibited from being awarded fees and costs unless the court finds the action was frivolous, unreasonable, or totally without foundation when brought or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.
This bill would declare the intent of the Legislation about the application of FEHA in regard to harassment.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 12923 is added to the Government Code, immediately following Section 12922, to read:

12923.
 The Legislature hereby declares its intent with regard to application of the laws about harassment contained in this part.
(a) The purpose of these laws is to provide all Californians with an equal opportunity to succeed in the workplace and should be applied accordingly by the courts. The Legislature hereby declares that harassment creates a hostile, offensive, oppressive, or intimidating work environment and deprives victims of their statutory right to work in a place free of discrimination when the harassing conduct sufficiently offends, humiliates, distresses, or intrudes upon its victim, so as to disrupt the victim’s emotional tranquility in the workplace, affect the victim’s ability to perform the job as usual, or otherwise interfere with and undermine the victim’s personal sense of well-being. In this regard, the Legislature affirms its approval of the standard set forth by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her concurrence in Harris v. Forklift Systems (1993) 510 U.S. 17 that in a workplace harassment suit “the plaintiff need not prove that his or her tangible productivity has declined as a result of the harassment. It suffices to prove that a reasonable person subjected to the discriminatory conduct would find, as the plaintiff did, that the harassment so altered working conditions as to make it more difficult to do the job.” (Id. at 26).
(b) A single incident of harassing conduct is sufficient to create a triable issue regarding the existence of a hostile work environment if the harassing conduct has unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. In that regard, the Legislature hereby declares its rejection of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s opinion in Brooks v. City of San Mateo (2000) 229 F.3d 917 and states that the opinion shall not be used in determining what kind of conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
(c) The existence of a hostile work environment depends upon the totality of the circumstances and a discriminatory remark, even if not made directly in the context of an employment decision or uttered by a nondecisionmaker, may be relevant, circumstantial evidence of discrimination. In that regard, the Legislature affirms the decision in Reid v. Google, Inc. (2010) 50 Cal.4th 512 in its rejection of the “stray remarks doctrine.”
(d) The legal standard for sexual harassment should not vary by type of workplace. It is irrelevant that a particular occupation may have been characterized by a greater frequency of sexually related commentary or conduct in the past. In determining whether or not a hostile environment existed, courts should only consider the nature of the workplace when engaging in or witnessing prurient conduct and commentary is integral to the performance of the job duties. The Legislature hereby declares its disapproval of any language, reasoning, or holding to the contrary in the decision Kelley v. Conco Companies (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 191.
(e) Harassment cases are rarely appropriate for disposition on summary judgment. In that regard, the Legislature affirms the decision in Nazir v. United Airlines, Inc. (2009) 178 Cal.App.4th 243 and its observation that hostile working environment cases involve issues “not determinable on paper.”

SEC. 2.

 Section 12940 of the Government Code is amended to read:

12940.
 It is an unlawful employment practice, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification, or, except where based upon applicable security regulations established by the United States or the State of California:
(a) For an employer, because of the race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person, to refuse to hire or employ the person or to refuse to select the person for a training program leading to employment, or to bar or to discharge the person from employment or from a training program leading to employment, or to discriminate against the person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
(1) This part does not prohibit an employer from refusing to hire or discharging an employee with a physical or mental disability, or subject an employer to any legal liability resulting from the refusal to employ or the discharge of an employee with a physical or mental disability, if the employee, because of a physical or mental disability, is unable to perform the employee’s essential duties even with reasonable accommodations, or cannot perform those duties in a manner that would not endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of others even with reasonable accommodations.
(2) This part does not prohibit an employer from refusing to hire or discharging an employee who, because of the employee’s medical condition, is unable to perform the employee’s essential duties even with reasonable accommodations, or cannot perform those duties in a manner that would not endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of others even with reasonable accommodations. Nothing in this part shall subject an employer to any legal liability resulting from the refusal to employ or the discharge of an employee who, because of the employee’s medical condition, is unable to perform the employee’s essential duties, or cannot perform those duties in a manner that would not endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of others even with reasonable accommodations.
(3) Nothing in this part relating to discrimination on account of marital status shall do either of the following:
(A) Affect the right of an employer to reasonably regulate, for reasons of supervision, safety, security, or morale, the working of spouses in the same department, division, or facility, consistent with the rules and regulations adopted by the commission.
(B) Prohibit bona fide health plans from providing additional or greater benefits to employees with dependents than to those employees without or with fewer dependents.
(4) Nothing in this part relating to discrimination on account of sex shall affect the right of an employer to use veteran status as a factor in employee selection or to give special consideration to Vietnam-era veterans.
(5) (A) This part does not prohibit an employer from refusing to employ an individual because of the individual’s age if the law compels or provides for that refusal. Promotions within the existing staff, hiring or promotion on the basis of experience and training, rehiring on the basis of seniority and prior service with the employer, or hiring under an established recruiting program from high schools, colleges, universities, or trade schools do not, in and of themselves, constitute unlawful employment practices.
(B) The provisions of this part relating to discrimination on the basis of age do not prohibit an employer from providing health benefits or health care reimbursement plans to retired persons that are altered, reduced, or eliminated when the person becomes eligible for Medicare health benefits. This subparagraph applies to all retiree health benefit plans and contractual provisions or practices concerning retiree health benefits and health care reimbursement plans in effect on or after January 1, 2011.
(b) For a labor organization, because of the race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person, to exclude, expel, or restrict from its membership the person, or to provide only second-class or segregated membership or to discriminate against any person because of the race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of the person in the election of officers of the labor organization or in the selection of the labor organization’s staff or to discriminate in any way against any of its members or against any employer or against any person employed by an employer.
(c) For any person to discriminate against any person in the selection, termination, training, or other terms or treatment of that person in any apprenticeship training program, any other training program leading to employment, an unpaid internship, or another limited duration program to provide unpaid work experience for that person because of the race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of the person discriminated against.
(d) For any employer or employment agency to print or circulate or cause to be printed or circulated any publication, or to make any nonjob-related inquiry of an employee or applicant, either verbal or through use of an application form, that expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification, or discrimination as to race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status, or any intent to make any such limitation, specification, or discrimination. This part does not prohibit an employer or employment agency from inquiring into the age of an applicant, or from specifying age limitations, if the law compels or provides for that action.
(e) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) or (3), for any employer or employment agency to require any medical or psychological examination of an applicant, to make any medical or psychological inquiry of an applicant, to make any inquiry whether an applicant has a mental disability or physical disability or medical condition, or to make any inquiry regarding the nature or severity of a physical disability, mental disability, or medical condition.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), an employer or employment agency may inquire into the ability of an applicant to perform job-related functions and may respond to an applicant’s request for reasonable accommodation.
(3) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), an employer or employment agency may require a medical or psychological examination or make a medical or psychological inquiry of a job applicant after an employment offer has been made but prior to the commencement of employment duties, provided that the examination or inquiry is job related and consistent with business necessity and that all entering employees in the same job classification are subject to the same examination or inquiry.
(f) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), for any employer or employment agency to require any medical or psychological examination of an employee, to make any medical or psychological inquiry of an employee, to make any inquiry whether an employee has a mental disability, physical disability, or medical condition, or to make any inquiry regarding the nature or severity of a physical disability, mental disability, or medical condition.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), an employer or employment agency may require any examinations or inquiries that it can show to be job related and consistent with business necessity. An employer or employment agency may conduct voluntary medical examinations, including voluntary medical histories, which are part of an employee health program available to employees at that worksite.
(g) For any employer, labor organization, or employment agency to harass, discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because the person has made a report pursuant to Section 11161.8 of the Penal Code that prohibits retaliation against hospital employees who report suspected patient abuse by health facilities or community care facilities.
(h) For any employer, labor organization, employment agency, or person to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because the person has opposed any practices forbidden under this part or because the person has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this part.
(i) For any person to aid, abet, incite, compel, or coerce the doing of any of the acts forbidden under this part, or to attempt to do so.
(j) (1) For an employer, labor organization, employment agency, apprenticeship training program or any training program leading to employment, or any other person, because of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status, to harass an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract. Harassment of an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract by an employee, other than an agent or supervisor, shall be unlawful if the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. An employer may also be responsible for the acts of nonemployees, with respect to harassment of employees, applicants, unpaid interns or volunteers, or persons providing services pursuant to a contract in the workplace, if the employer, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. In reviewing cases involving the acts of nonemployees, the extent of the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility that the employer may have with respect to the conduct of those nonemployees shall be considered. An entity shall take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring. Loss of tangible job benefits shall not be necessary in order to establish harassment.
(2) The provisions of this subdivision are declaratory of existing law, except for the new duties imposed on employers with regard to harassment.
(3) An employee of an entity subject to this subdivision is personally liable for any harassment prohibited by this section that is perpetrated by the employee, regardless of whether the employer or covered entity knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
(4) (A) For purposes of this subdivision only, “employer” means any person regularly employing one or more persons or regularly receiving the services of one or more persons providing services pursuant to a contract, or any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, the state, or any political or civil subdivision of the state, and cities. The definition of “employer” in subdivision (d) of Section 12926 applies to all provisions of this section other than this subdivision.
(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), for purposes of this subdivision, “employer” does not include a religious association or corporation not organized for private profit, except as provided in Section 12926.2.
(C) For purposes of this subdivision, “harassment” because of sex includes sexual harassment, gender harassment, and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.
(5) For purposes of this subdivision, “a person providing services pursuant to a contract” means a person who meets all of the following criteria:
(A) The person has the right to control the performance of the contract for services and discretion as to the manner of performance.
(B) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established business.
(C) The person has control over the time and place the work is performed, supplies the tools and instruments used in the work, and performs work that requires a particular skill not ordinarily used in the course of the employer’s work.
(k) (1) For an employer, labor organization, employment agency, apprenticeship training program, or any training program leading to employment, to fail to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. The plaintiff in an action alleging an unlawful employment practice under this subdivision is not required to prove that the plaintiff endured harassment or discrimination for purposes of showing that the defendant failed to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring. It shall suffice for the plaintiff to show that
(2) In an action under this subdivision, the plaintiff shall show all of the following:
(A) That the employer knew that the conduct was unwelcome to the plaintiff, that plaintiff.
(B) That the conduct would meet the legal standard for harassment or discrimination if it increased in severity or become pervasive, and that became pervasive.
(C) That the defendant failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the same or similar conduct from recurring.
(l) (1) For an employer or other entity covered by this part to refuse to hire or employ a person or to refuse to select a person for a training program leading to employment or to bar or to discharge a person from employment or from a training program leading to employment, or to discriminate against a person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of a conflict between the person’s religious belief or observance and any employment requirement, unless the employer or other entity covered by this part demonstrates that it has explored any available reasonable alternative means of accommodating the religious belief or observance, including the possibilities of excusing the person from those duties that conflict with the person’s religious belief or observance or permitting those duties to be performed at another time or by another person, but is unable to reasonably accommodate the religious belief or observance without undue hardship, as defined in subdivision (u) of Section 12926, on the conduct of the business of the employer or other entity covered by this part. Religious belief or observance, as used in this section, includes, but is not limited to, observance of a Sabbath or other religious holy day or days, reasonable time necessary for travel prior and subsequent to a religious observance, and religious dress practice and religious grooming practice as described in subdivision (q) of Section 12926. This subdivision shall also apply to an apprenticeship training program, an unpaid internship, and any other program to provide unpaid experience for a person in the workplace or industry.
(2) An accommodation of an individual’s religious dress practice or religious grooming practice is not reasonable if the accommodation requires segregation of the individual from other employees or the public.
(3) An accommodation is not required under this subdivision if it would result in a violation of this part or any other law prohibiting discrimination or protecting civil rights, including subdivision (b) of Section 51 of the Civil Code and Section 11135 of this code.
(4) For an employer or other entity covered by this part to, in addition to the employee protections provided pursuant to subdivision (h), retaliate or otherwise discriminate against a person for requesting accommodation under this subdivision, regardless of whether the request was granted.
(m) (1) For an employer or other entity covered by this part to fail to make reasonable accommodation for the known physical or mental disability of an applicant or employee. Nothing in this subdivision or in paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (a) shall be construed to require an accommodation that is demonstrated by the employer or other covered entity to produce undue hardship, as defined in subdivision (u) of Section 12926, to its operation.
(2) For an employer or other entity covered by this part to, in addition to the employee protections provided pursuant to subdivision (h), retaliate or otherwise discriminate against a person for requesting accommodation under this subdivision, regardless of whether the request was granted.
(n) For an employer or other entity covered by this part to fail to engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective reasonable accommodations, if any, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation by an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition.
(o) For an employer or other entity covered by this part, to subject, directly or indirectly, any employee, applicant, or other person to a test for the presence of a genetic characteristic.
(p) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as preventing the ability of employers to identify members of the military or veterans for purposes of awarding a veteran’s preference as permitted by law.

SEC. 3.

 Section 12950.1 of the Government Code is amended to read:

12950.1.
 (a)  An employer shall provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all employees in California within six months of their hire. An employer covered by this section shall provide sexual harassment training and education to each employee in California once every two years. The training and education required by this section shall include information and practical guidance regarding the federal and state statutory provisions concerning the prohibition against and the prevention and correction of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment in employment. The training and education shall also include practical examples aimed at instructing employees in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and shall be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
(b) An employer shall also include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the training and education specified in subdivision (a).
(c) An employer shall also provide training inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation as a component of the training and education specified in subdivision (a). The training and education shall include practical examples inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, and shall be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise in those areas.
(d) An employer shall also provide bystander intervention training that includes information and practical guidance on how to enable bystanders to recognize potentially problematic behaviors and to motivate bystanders to take action when they observe problematic behaviors. The training and education shall also include exercises to provide bystanders with the skills and confidence to intervene as appropriate and to provide bystanders with resources they can call upon that support their intervention.
(e) The employer shall provide information to each employee on how and to whom harassment should be reported as well as provide information on how to contact the department to make a complaint regarding a violation of the laws regarding workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
(f) The state shall incorporate the training required by subdivisions (a) to (c), inclusive, into the 80 hours of training provided to all new employees pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 19995.4, using existing resources.
(g) Notwithstanding subdivisions (j) and (k) of Section 12940, a claim that the training and education required by this section did not reach a particular individual or individuals shall not in and of itself result in the liability of any employer to any present or former employee or applicant in any action alleging sexual harassment. Conversely, an employer’s compliance with this section does not insulate the employer from liability for sexual harassment of any current or former employee or applicant.
(h) If an employer violates this section, the department may seek an order requiring the employer to comply with these requirements.
(i) The training and education required by this section is intended to establish a minimum threshold and should not discourage or relieve any employer from providing for longer, more frequent, or more elaborate training and education regarding workplace harassment or other forms of unlawful discrimination in order to meet its obligations to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination.
(j) (1) For purposes of this section only, “employer” also includes any person regularly receiving the services of 50 or more persons providing services pursuant to a contract, or any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, the state, or any political or civil subdivision of the state, and cities.
(2) For purposes of this section, “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. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

SEC. 4.

 Section 12964.5 is added to the Government Code, to read:

12964.5.
 (a) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer, in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment, to do either of the following:
(1) (A) For an employer to require an employee to sign a release of a claim or right under this part.
(B) As used in this section, “release of claim or right” includes requiring an individual to execute a statement that he or she does not possess any claim or injury against the employer or other covered entity, and includes the release of a right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint with, or otherwise notify, a state agency, other public prosecutor, law enforcement agency, or any court or other governmental entity.
(2) (A) For an employer to require an employee to sign a nondisparagement agreement or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose information about unlawful acts in the workplace, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment.
(B) For purposes of this paragraph, “information about unlawful acts in the workplace” includes, but is not limited to, information pertaining to sexual harassment or any other unlawful or potentially unlawful conduct.
(b) Any agreement or document in violation of this section is contrary to public policy and shall be unenforceable.

SEC. 5.

 Section 12965 of the Government Code is amended to read:

12965.
 (a) In the case of failure to eliminate an unlawful practice under this part through conference, conciliation, mediation, or persuasion, or in advance thereof if circumstances warrant, the director in the director’s discretion may bring a civil action in the name of the department on behalf of the person claiming to be aggrieved. Prior to filing a civil action, the department shall require all parties to participate in mandatory dispute resolution in the department’s internal dispute resolution division free of charge to the parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without litigation. In any civil action, the person claiming to be aggrieved shall be the real party in interest and shall have the right to participate as a party and be represented by that person’s own counsel. The civil action shall be brought in any county in which unlawful practices are alleged to have been committed, in the county in which records relevant to the alleged unlawful practices are maintained and administered, or in the county in which the person claiming to be aggrieved would have worked or would have had access to public accommodation, but for the alleged unlawful practices. If the defendant is not found in any of these counties, the action may be brought within the county of the defendant’s residence or principal office.
For any complaint treated by the director as a group or class complaint for purposes of investigation, conciliation, mediation, or civil action pursuant to Section 12961, a civil action shall be brought, if at all, within two years after the filing of the complaint. For any complaint alleging a violation of Section 51.7 of the Civil Code, a civil action shall be brought, if at all, within two years after the filing of the complaint. For all other complaints, a civil action shall be brought, if at all, within one year after the filing of a complaint. If the director determines, pursuant to Section 12961, that a complaint investigated as a group or class complaint under Section 12961 is to be treated as a group or class complaint for purposes of conciliation, mediation, or civil action as well, that determination shall be made and shall be communicated in writing within one year after the filing of the complaint to each person, employer, labor organization, employment agency, or public entity alleged in the complaint to have committed an unlawful practice.
(b) If a civil action is not brought by the department within 150 days after the filing of a complaint, or if the department earlier determines that no civil action will be brought, the department shall promptly notify, in writing, the person claiming to be aggrieved that the department shall issue, on request, the right-to-sue notice. This notice shall indicate that the person claiming to be aggrieved may bring a civil action under this part against the person, employer, labor organization, or employment agency named in the verified complaint within one year from the date of that notice. If the person claiming to be aggrieved does not request a right-to-sue notice, the department shall issue the notice upon completion of its investigation, and not later than one year after the filing of the complaint. A city, county, or district attorney in a location having an enforcement unit established on or before March 1, 1991, pursuant to a local ordinance enacted for the purpose of prosecuting HIV/AIDS discrimination claims, acting on behalf of any person claiming to be aggrieved due to HIV/AIDS discrimination, may also bring a civil action under this part against the person, employer, labor organization, or employment agency named in the notice. The superior courts of the State of California shall have jurisdiction of those actions, and the aggrieved person may file in these courts. An action may be brought in any county in the state in which the unlawful practice is alleged to have been committed, in the county in which the records relevant to the practice are maintained and administered, or in the county in which the aggrieved person would have worked or would have had access to the public accommodation but for the alleged unlawful practice, but if the defendant is not found within any of these counties, an action may be brought within the county of the defendant’s residence or principal office. A copy of any complaint filed pursuant to this part shall be served on the principal offices of the department. The remedy for failure to send a copy of a complaint is an order to do so. Those actions may not be filed as class actions or may not be maintained as class actions by the person or persons claiming to be aggrieved where those persons have filed a civil class action in the federal courts alleging a comparable claim of employment discrimination against the same defendant or defendants. In civil actions brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award to the prevailing party, including the department, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees, except that, notwithstanding Section 998 of the Civil Code, a prevailing defendant shall not be awarded fees and costs unless the court finds the action was frivolous, unreasonable, or totally without foundation when brought or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.
(c) A court may grant as relief in any action filed pursuant to subdivision (a) any relief a court is empowered to grant in a civil action brought pursuant to subdivision (b), in addition to any other relief that, in the judgment of the court, will effectuate the purpose of this part. This relief may include a requirement that the employer conduct training for all employees, supervisors, and management on the requirements of this part, the rights and remedies of those who allege a violation of this part, and the employer’s internal grievance procedures. In addition, in order to vindicate the purposes and policies of this part, a court may assess against the defendant, if the civil complaint or amended civil complaint so prays, a civil penalty of up to twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) to be awarded to a person denied any right provided for by Section 51.7 of the Civil Code, as an unlawful practice prohibited under this part.
(d) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), the one-year statute of limitations, commencing from the date of the right-to-sue notice by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, to the person claiming to be aggrieved, shall be tolled when all of the following requirements have been met:
(A) A charge of discrimination or harassment is timely filed concurrently with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
(B) The investigation of the charge is deferred by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
(C) A right-to-sue notice is issued to the person claiming to be aggrieved upon deferral of the charge by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
(2) The time for commencing an action for which the statute of limitations is tolled under paragraph (1) expires when the federal right-to-sue period to commence a civil action expires, or one year from the date of the right-to-sue notice by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, whichever is later.
(3) This subdivision is intended to codify the holding in Downs v. Department of Water and Power of City of Los Angeles (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 1093.
(e) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), the one-year statute of limitations, commencing from the date of the right-to-sue notice by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, to the person claiming to be aggrieved, shall be tolled when all of the following requirements have been met:
(A) A charge of discrimination or harassment is timely filed concurrently with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
(B) The investigation of the charge is deferred by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
(C) After investigation and determination by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agrees to perform a substantial weight review of the determination of the department or conducts its own investigation of the claim filed by the aggrieved person.
(2) The time for commencing an action for which the statute of limitations is tolled under paragraph (1) shall expire when the federal right-to-sue period to commence a civil action expires, or one year from the date of the right-to-sue notice by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, whichever is later.