The California Legislature is debating a bill that has passed through committee that would phase out hierarchy within a company. The bill is considered a landmark bill by many to eliminate what has been referred to as “wholesale oppression” of employees of a company.
Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) sponsored the bill and hailed it as the next step in equal rights for all Americans. In the State Senate, President Pro Tem Kevin De León cheered the efforts of Speaker Atkins and stated he and his caucus were fully on board. De León (D-Los Angeles) said, “No longer will workers confront the hostile environment which comes every day when they have to face being stratified in their careers.”
AB-69 details the terms which can no longer as stated in the law be used to “create a hostile work environment.” As codified in the law, the terms “supervisor, manager, overseer, team leader, leader, producer, director, controller, chair, boss, captain, head person, head honcho, authority, chief, chairperson, chairman, partner, inspector or any other term that may create a perception of inequity that an employee may perceive as harmful to their employment individuality.” Speaker Atkins stated, “This legislation in coordination with our recent law regarding bullying in the workplace will successfully create a harmonious environment for our residents which will enhance their life experience.”
The ACLU has weighed in supporting the proposal. ACLU spokesperson Jeffrey Steinberg expressed not only that the new law would be welcomed, but they feel the law will withstand any legal challenges. Steinberg stated “Our society has wrought a fearful environment for have-nots who wish to improve their economic status. Being stratified with hostile terms like supervisor or manager have created a drag on our culture that must be halted.”
The bill created a firestorm amongst the entertainment community. The California legislature usually bends to the will of an industry which they perceive as ideologically and financially supportive, but in this case they are at loggerheads. This was caused by the inclusion of the terms producer and director in the law. Both the PGA (Producers Guild of America) and the DGA (Directors Guild of America) stated that the terms are essential to the proper operation of the production of either a movie or a television show. The guilds stated there would be mayhem on their sets. Gary Lucchesi, Co-President of the PGA “stated the California legislature thinks it can buy us off by providing us $330 million of tax credits for our productions and stealing from us our historical rights to our designations. I earned my title of producer. All I ever wanna be is a producer. This bill will steal that from me and my fellow guild members.”
The bill provides guidelines as to proper language. Some of the suggestions are buddy, comrade, crony, compatriot, chum, confidante, friend, mate, colleague, or the ubiquitous guys.
Republican leadership in both the Assembly and the State Senate stated the bill was just another nail in the coffin for California as a friendly environment for employers. They stated unfortunately because of their minority status they were unable to put a halt to the progress of the law.
The bill offers many remedies to the employees offended by any transgressors. The first is the state establishes mandatory classes for all companies with 10 or more employees in how to properly address all staff members. Those classes would have to be taken by all employees and must be certified to be completed within 180 days of the signing of the bill. If a company continues any offensive language, the fine is $100 per day per employee.
A spokesperson for People for The American Way (PFAW) said they were delighted with the progress the bill is making through the legislature. Senator De León gave credit to PFAW for generating wording for the legislation. Their spokesperson expressed that elected officials “would want to be on the right side of history in making this law part of the foundation of our society.” Governor Brown’s office announced if passed he would sign the legislation into law.
This legislation would certainly put California on the cutting edge of the evolution of the work environment. Workers will for the first time in history be free of being accountable to the man. There will be no more oppression in the workplace.It has been suggested this be named the Willy Loman Freedom Act. He would be proud.