In October 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1343 into law. This law mandates that employers in the state provide all non-supervisory employees with at least one hour of sexual harassment training by January 1, 2020.
The new law goes into effect January 1, 2019. The only California employers currently required to provide training are those with at least 50 full-time, part-time, and temporary employees or independent contractors. Currently, the law only requires that these employers must provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees once every two years. In addition, those employees must receive training within six months of their taking a new position as a supervisor.
The new law also requires that migrant and seasonal agricultural workers must be trained in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
SB 1343 expands on these requirements by mandating that employers with only five or more employees provide non-supervisory employees with at least one hour of training every two years. This will now be in addition to the required training of two hours of the biennial supervisory training.
The new and expanded requirements of California SB 1343 for both supervisors and non-supervisory employees are required to receive training by the first mandated deadline on January 1, 2020, meaning training must occur in 2019. Subsequent to that date, all employees must be trained within six months of their start dates, or the date of their promotion to supervisor or manager.
SB 1343 Requirements for Employers
Within six months of new employees assuming their position, employers must provide training:
- For at least two hours for all supervisors
- For at least one hour for all non-supervisory employees
- Once every two years thereafter
SB 1343 also requires that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) develop and make training courses available that comply with these requirements. By January 2019 the DFEH website is expected to have uploaded compliant one-hour and two-hour training modules available for employers to use free of charge.
However, California employers can develop and use their own training materials so long as they meet the state’s requirements. According to a post at Everfi:
"Employee education may take the form of online or live training, the latter of which can be delivered to employees individually, or in groups. Further, those who provide training sessions are required to have “knowledge and expertise” in harassment prevention, discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Trainers also need to have expertise on harassment that occurs on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity, among other requirements specified in state regulation
Note also that training does not need to be completed in a single session. The hourly requirements may be met by multiple training sessions so long as they add up to the two hours required for supervisors or hour for non-supervisory staff."
Requirements of Workplace Harassment Training
Employees can develop their own training, or use existing training content. The legislation requires that instructional material must teach employees about both federal and statewide bans on sexual harassment, information and practical guidance on sexual harassment prevention, abusive conduct prevention, and possible corrective actions against those who commit harassment.
In addition, the training must provide information on remedies available to employees who experience harassment.
Training extends beyond just sexual harassment and must also cover harassment based on sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, as well as discrimination, retaliation, and abusive conduct. The training must also provide practical examples.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits harassment based on a protected category against an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a contractor. FEHA defines abusive conduct as:
“…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.”
The required training can be completed by employees individually or as part of a group presentation. In addition, it can be presented in shorter time segments, or in addition to other training, if the required total hours of training are met.
California law requires that the training include:
- Information and practical guidance regarding federal and state legal prohibitions against sexual harassment
- Training about harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation
- Education on the prevention of abusive conduct
- Practical examples aimed at teaching supervisors about how to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation
- Steps employers can take to prevent and correct sexual harassment at work
- Remedies available to victims of workplace sexual harassment
A related bill that was also signed into law in October was SB 1300. This new law authorizes, but does not require, California employers to provide bystander intervention training to its employees.
Defining Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
"...unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex."
Some actions such as simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated or non-serious incidents are not considered harassment. However, they do become harassment when they are:
"so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted)."
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) employers are liable for the actions of their workers and they can be held accountable, especially if they were aware of sexual harassment activities.
Employers should have written policies outlining the definition and examples of harassment. However, the real issue for California employers is that they must be clear that just having a policy or verbally forbidding harassing behavior is not sufficient compliance, especially if faced with a legal complaint.
Best Practices for Managing California Labor Laws
Outsourcing HR functions is an increasingly common strategy for small businesses and the advantages are worth asking about. In addition to reducing your in-house costs, increasing accuracy and security, you can also benefit by freeing your HR resources for improving operational functions, recruiting efforts, and training.
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Reliability, full-service options, and reputation are the hallmarks of a quality HR management service provider. If you are currently looking to invest in outsourcing you get your Free Download: California Labor Law guide to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.