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New California Sexual Harassment Law - What You need to Know

New California Sexual Harassment Law - What You need to Know

As of January 1, 2020, any employer with five or more employees will have to provide their supervisory employees with two hours of training, regarding sexual harassment. Employees can receive the training in either a classroom setting or any other style of interactive training and education like a live webinar. For all non-supervisory employees, there will need to be at least one hour of training provided. This will need to be done within six months of an employee obtaining the position in the company. Additionally, the training shall be provided once every two years.

Previously, since 2005, employers with 50 employees were required to train and educate all personnel in supervisory positions. Senate Bill 1343 changes the number of employees, by lowering the number to five and has also included non-supervisory employees. The California senate has determined this is more adequate and employers will need to update their training to comply with this new regulation.

“While such training has always been a good practice, soon the training will become mandatory,” said Christopher Olmsted, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in San Diego. Another attorney with Wilson Turner Kosmo in San Diego and the government affairs director for the California State Council added, “This means that many employers that previously had no harassment training requirement will have one, and even those larger employers that had one will now have to provide training to a much larger group of employees. While this law is obviously well-intentioned to ensure that almost every California employee is aware of harassment protections, there is no getting around the fact that employers and HR professionals will need to re-examine their existing harassment programs or potentially develop a new one.”

Sexual harassment is something almost all places of employment take seriously and for those that don’t, they should begin. Sexual harassment occurs when there is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This type of harassment can come in many forms and is not subject to one type of person. It could be from a supervisor, as one might suspect, but it can also come from a coworker, peer, or colleague. Sexual harassment includes:

- Conditions of employment or advancement based on sexual responses.

- Direct, physical acts of sexual assault.

- Verbal harassment with a sexual tone, including jokes.

- Unwanted touching.

- Talking about sexual acts or thoughts.

- Physical exposure to others.

- Sharing or exploiting photos, emails, and texts of a sexual nature.

Initiating the development of this new training will pose a challenge for some employers who are not used to delivering as much of a requirement for employees. They will need to make determinations that fit their company size and scope, such as whether or not the training should be large-scale, small groups, or any other kind of format. Whatever they decide, it will be necessary for employers who fit the category of this requirement to begin creating a training plan now.

One resource that might help is a requirement by the law that directs the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to prepare training materials in compliance with the new requirements. Employers could readily use these tools to bolster their training. Training plans will need to include an understanding of:

  1. The definition of sexual harassment.
  2. The statutes and case-law that prohibits sexual harassment.
  3. What kind of conduct is considered in the realm of sexual harassment.
  4. Prevention plans.
  5. How confidentiality plays into the reporting mechanism.
  6. What the reporting mechanism is and how to access it.
  7. Response methods for the accused.

Effective training programs can be developed by attorneys who have been practicing members for at least two years and whose employment includes cases under the Fair Employment and Housing Act or Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Human resources professionals are also a perfect source for training development, particularly if they have had experience in creating/implementing training that dealt with discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment prevention in the past.

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Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace HR Package

Preventing Sexual Harassment HR Training Package

Business Training Media's three-part series on sexual harassment was created specifically to assist employers in training their managers and employees to recognize, avoid, investigate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Learn more...

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