The employment laws in California are complex and ever-changing. Considering the substantial risk of exposure that employers face from non-compliance, it is of paramount importance for employers to stay updated. One area of employment law which has been developing rather quickly has been the field of harassment training. Unbeknownst to many employers, the California legislature recently passed a law that requires California employers to provide sexual harassment and training.

What is the Deadline to Provide Training?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) was recently amended to include a requirement that covered employers “provide sexual harassment training and education to each employee in California once every two years” Cal. Gov. Code § 12950.1(a)(1).

What is more, “new nonsupervisory employees” must be “provided training within six months of hire,” while “new supervisory employees” must “be provided training within six months of the assumption of a supervisory position.” Cal. Gov. Code § 12950.1(a)(1).

What Must be Included in the Training Materials?

According to the California Code of Regulations, the mandatory training must at an absolute minimum include training regarding the following topics:

  • Definitions of unlawful harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, where applicable. In addition to defining harassment covered by this section, an employer may provide a definition of and train about unlawful harassment on other bases enumerated in the FEHA, as specified in Government Code section 12940(j), and may discuss how harassment of an employee may encompass more than one basis.
  • FEHA and Title VII statutory provisions and case law principles concerning the prohibition against and the prevention of unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in employment.
  • The types of conduct that constitute harassment.
  • Remedies available for harassment victims in civil actions; potential employer/individual exposure/liability.
  • Strategies to prevent harassment in the workplace.
  • Supervisors’ obligation to report harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of which they become aware.
  • Practical examples, such as factual scenarios taken from case law, news and media accounts, hypotheticals based on workplace situations, and other sources, illustrate harassment, discrimination, and retaliation using training modalities such as role plays, case studies, and group discussions.
  • The limited confidentiality of the complaint process.
  • Resources for victims of unlawful harassment, such as to whom they should report any alleged harassment.
  • In addition to discussing strategies to prevent harassment, the training should also cover the steps necessary to take appropriate remedial measures to correct harassing behavior, which includes an employer’s obligation to conduct an effective workplace investigation of a harassment complaint.
  • Training on what to do if a supervisor is personally accused of harassment.
  • The essential elements of an anti-harassment policy and how to utilize it if a harassment complaint is filed. Either the employer’s policy or a sample policy shall be provided to the employees. Regardless of whether the employer’s policy is used as part of the training, the employer shall give each employee a copy of its anti-harassment policy and require each employee to read and acknowledge receipt of that policy.
  • A review of the definition of “abusive conduct” as used in this context (and as defined by Government Code section 12950.1(i)(2)). The training should explain the negative effects that abusive conduct has on the victim of the conduct, as well as others in the workplace.

The discussion should also include information about the detrimental consequences of this conduct on employers – including a reduction in productivity and morale. The training should specifically discuss the elements of “abusive conduct,” including conduct undertaken with malice that a reasonable person would find hostile or offensive and that is not related to an employer’s legitimate business interests (including performance standards).

Examples of abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, 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.

Finally, the training should emphasize that a single act shall not constitute abusive conduct unless the act is especially severe or egregious.

While there is not a specific amount of time or ratio of the training that needs to be dedicated to the prevention of abusive conduct, it should be covered in a meaningful manner.
Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2 § 11024

Do Employers Have to Pay For Training?

No. There are many different ways in which an employer can satisfy the sexual harassment training requirement. One way to do that is to outsource or hire an outside trainer. Another way to meet the training requirement is to go through the free online course provided by the California Civil Rights Department.

Does an Employer Have to Keep Track of Who Was Trained and Who Wasn’t?

To track compliance, an employer is required to keep documentation of the training it has provided its employees for a minimum of two years, including but not limited to the names of the employees trained, the date of training, the sign-in sheet, a copy of all certificates of attendance or completion issued, the type of training, a copy of all written or recorded materials that comprise the training, and the name of the training provider.

Contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. to Learn More

As an employer, do you have questions about sexual harassment training? At our firm, we are committed to advocating for our clients and safeguarding their rights. You can trust that our team of seasoned attorneys can provide the information you need. Our legal services are available to clients in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Glendale, and we have a long history of satisfied clients. Reach out to us today. If you have questions about sexual harassment training for employees. Click to know.