California Court Rules Harassment Law Not Retroactive

November 5, 2004 ( - A California court has ruled that a 2001 law that permits co-workers to sue each other for sexual and other types of harassment in the workplace is not retroactive.

>The ruling pertains to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1999. The court had previously ruled that law only applied to supervisory employees, but in 2001 the legislature amended the law to cover all employees. Writing for the majority in the recent decision by the California Supreme Court, Justice Ming Chin stated that the Legislature did not specify whether or not the amendment was retroactive.

>The case involves a sexual harassment complaint filed by an Employment Development Department (EDD) auditor, Lesli Ann McClung. She sued over the actions of a fellow EDD employee, Manual Lopez, during a 1997 business trip, according to the Sacramento Bee. The state Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled in 2001 that the amendment permitted the lawsuit to proceed, but without EDD as a defendant.

>Writing an opinion for the minority, Justice Carlos Moreno stated that the Legislature’s intent was to make it retroactive, made clear by the terms of the amendment, which states that its provisions “are declaratory of existing laws,” according to the Bee. The majority, however, felt otherwise.

>The case, McClung v. Employment Development Department et al., is available at .