Recent news of sexual harassment wrongdoing by public figures and the #MeToo movement has heightened public and political interest in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. For more than a decade, California has made sexual harassment prevention a priority relying largely on its tough employee sexual harassment training requirements.
State and Federal Prohibition of Sexual Harassment
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 make sexual harassment illegal in the workplace. California law requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct sexual harassment. This includes posting notices about sexual harassment and transgender rights in the workplace, distributing a publication on harassment to employees, and developing written harassment and discrimination policies. California also requires employers to provide their supervisory employees with sexual harassment training. Soon, that training will be required for almost all employees.
Sexual Harassment Training Expanded
California began mandating sexual harassment training for supervisors in 2005 with the enactment of AB 1825. Since then, California has continued to build upon the sexual harassment training requirements through new legislation and regulations defining the scope, content and frequency of the training. (See 2 CCR § 11024). Here’s how the law evolved:
AB 1825 went into effect on January 1, 2005, requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide their supervisory employees with two hours of classroom or other effective interactive sexual harassment prevention training every two years. New supervisors had to be trained within six months of taking a supervisory position. The first training deadline was December 31, 2005.
The mandatory training must include:
- Information and practical guidance regarding federal and state statutory laws about sexual harassment.
- Information about the correction of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.
- Practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors in the prevention of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
AB 2053 went into effect on January 1, 2015, adding the requirement that the mandatory supervisor training include a component on “abusive conduct.” Regulations enacted in 2016 provide that the training should include a discussion of the negative effects abusive conduct, a discussion of the elements of abusive conduct and provide examples of abusive conduct.
SB 396 went into effect on January 1, 2018. The law expanded the training requirement to include a component on “harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.” The law also requires employers to post a separate notice about transgender rights in the workplace.
On January 1, 2019, a new law will take effect, requiring employers with five or more employees to provide, by January 1, 2020, at least two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to all non-supervisory employees. Training must be provided within 6 months of the supervisor’s or employee’s assumption of the position and once every two years thereafter. Training for temporary or seasonal employees is on an expedited time frame.
SB 1343 also requires the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to offer online courses in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. The DFEH will develop a one-hour training course for non-supervisory employees and a two-hour course for supervisors. The DFEH’s online training courses will be available in several languages. The department will also provide a method for employees who have completed the training to save and print a certificate of completion.
As with previous amendments, the January 1, 2019 law will require the DFEH to update the workplace Discrimination and Harassment workplace posting and the sexual harassment pamphlet that employers must distribute to employees. At the moment, the DFEH anticipates updating these notices sometime in 2019. We’ll have an announcement when the notice updates are released so stay tuned!