New California Sexual Harassment Laws

Michael J. Carpenter | Mar 6, 2020 | minute read

2020 is here—and if your business is operating in California, that means you need to be up to speed on the new California sexual harassment laws. Many of these new laws went into place on January 1, 2020, or earlier, which means if you are not in compliance, you stand to face expensive penalties. 

Here’s what you need to know about these changes and how they may impact your company.

Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training

Since 2005, companies with 50 or more employees have been required to provide two or more hours of training and education on sexual harassment. This changed with SB1343, which requires businesses with five or more employees to provide the training. The bill went into effect in 2019, with a deadline of January 1, 2020, for providing the training.

Breaking Down California Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

If your company has five employees or more, including seasonal and temporary workers, you must provide sexual harassment training to every employee once every two years. How much training is needed depends on the role of the employee. Managerial employees must have at least two hours of training while non-managerial employees only need one. 

Keep in mind that California may define who is an employee differently than you do, so be certain you understand employee, contractor, and freelancer classifications.

Timeline for California Sexual Harassment Training

If you meet the five-employee threshold and didn’t provide sexual harassment training in the 2019 calendar year, you might face legal consequences. Even if your employees received this training in the last two years, any training prior to 2019 is not counted by the law. Given it’s now 2020, you might have missed this deadline. Set up your employee sexual harassment training as soon as possible.

Acceptable California Sexual Harassment Training

You have the option of selecting training that’s done in a classroom setting, through an E-learning platform, or via a live webinar. You can use the training developed by The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which meets the minimum requirements for training and also provides you with brochures, posters, and guides to keep sexual harassment laws at the forefront of your employees’ minds. 

There’s also the option of working with independent trainers who may be more thorough in their approach and better able to tailor their lessons to specific concerns you have.

Keep in mind that not everyone is legally allowed to provide sexual harassment prevention training in the state of California. Those who are permitted to provide this training are:

  • Lawyers with active California Bar membership for at least two years working with a practice that includes employment law under the Fair Employment and Housing Act or Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Human resource professionals and harassment prevention consultants with one of the following areas of expertise:
    • Designing or conducting training on discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment prevention
    • Responding to sexual harassment or other complaints of discrimination
    • Investigating sexual harassment complaints
    • Advising on discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment prevention
  • Law school, college, and university instructors with a postgraduate degree or California teaching credential plus 20 hours of education on employment law under either the FEHA or Title VII

Before you sign up for any training program, ensure that the instructors meet one of the above criteria, otherwise, you won’t be in compliance with the law.

Topics California Sexual Harassment Training Must Cover

According to the law, sexual harassment training must ensure employees fully understand the following:

  • How sexual harassment is defined under the Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • Statutes and case law that prohibit sexual harassment
  • Statues meant to prevent sexual harassment from occurring
  • What forms of conduct are considered sexual harassment
  • Steps someone being sexually harassed can take to seek justice
  • Examples of sexual harassment and concrete steps to take to prevent it from happening
  • Obligations to report observed sexual harassment
  • How to keep the complaint process confidential
  • Where and whom to report sexual harassment to
  • What resources are available to victims of sexual harassment
  • How employees should correct harassing behavior
  • Specific steps to take when the accused is in a supervisory role
  • Ways to create effective anti-harassment policy
  • What abusive conduct is under Government Code section 12950.1, subdivision (g)(2)
  • How harassment might be based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation

Training must culminate in questions that assess learning, activities that assess understanding and application of the training, and hypothetical scenarios that include discussion questions.

Where to Find California Sexual Harassment Training

A quick Google search will help you locate numerous training programs in California. You could vet these programs on your own, but a better option would be to speak to your attorney or insurance provider. Both should know of multiple options that meet the requirements of the law.

Limits on Confidentiality of Sexual Harassment Settlements

In the past, sexual harassment settlements could include far-reaching non-disclosure agreements. These typically restricted those who filed suit from being able to discuss what happened to them, details of the court case, and their settlement. 

Now, California law places limits on non-disclosure agreements related to these settlements. If your company ends up involved in such a suit, have your lawyer carefully consider the wording of any NDA.

Your Guide to California Business Liability Policies

With decades of experience and countless customers in numerous industries, we know how to protect your company. To learn more about what we can do for you, contact one of our knowledgeable agents at Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency today.

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