As legislators throughout the United States continue to strengthen sexual harassment prevention laws, sexual harassment training is becoming a critical element of these laws. Senate Bill 1343 is a new law in California that is expected to have far-reaching implications for organizations of all sizes.
Organizations with five or more employees will now be required to provide comprehensive sexual harassment training to all their employees, including both supervisors and nonsupervisory workers by January 1, 2020. This is a major shift from the current law, which only requires employers in California with 50 or more workers to train all their supervisory workers on gender-based harassment, sexual harassment, and abusive conduct.
SB 1343, signed on September 30, 2018, by Governor J. Brown, requires organizations with five or more workers to provide a mandatory two hours of comprehensive sexual harassment training and education within six months to all of their supervisory employees. Nonsupervisory employees will also be expected to receive one hour of training, which must be provided by January 1, 2020, with retraining every two years after this date.
Temporary workers, seasonal workers, or any worker hired to work for a period not exceeding six months must be provided with this training within 100 hours worked or within 30 calendar days of their employment date, whichever comes first. Where temporary workers are employed by temporary hiring firms to work for clients, the temporary hiring firm must provide the training and not the client.
Training must include practical guidance and information regarding federal and state laws related to the prevention and correction of any form of sexual harassment, including solutions available to sexual harassment victims at the workplace. The training must also use practical examples and case studies to train supervisors on how to identify and prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.
Training will also cover effective ways of preventing harassment based on sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. Employers are allowed to develop their own training materials and training programs as long as they meet the models and law requirements set out by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), or they may also direct their workers to study the online training courses developed by the state.
DFEH is expected to post one- and two-hour training courses on effective mechanisms to prevent workplace sexual harassment on their website. The department must also make fact sheets, online training courses, and informational posters available to employers in many languages. Training may be provided together with other training offered to workers. Employees can complete the training either as part of a group presentation or individually, and it can be completed in short segments as long as the prescribed hourly total is achieved.
While implementing SB 1343, it is important for those in charge of training to consider these factors:
Employers must get their training calendar organized as soon as possible, especially if they have a large population of employees. Employers have little time to create and deploy training programs ahead of the January 1, 2020, deadline.
Employers will also need to develop a budget in order to comply with the requirements of the new law. Companies may choose whether to engage with an external consultant to provide online or live training.
As mentioned earlier, employers must observe certain regulatory guidelines regarding the training content, such as practical guidance, remedies available to sexual harassment victims, and sexual harassment preventative measures, among other requirements.
California is known as a leader when it comes to protection against discrimination and harassment. The state has already put in place stringent laws regarding the obligation of an employer to take reasonable measures to prevent discrimination and harassment. Training has been seen as the missing piece in the state’s sexual harassment prevention puzzle.
SB 1343 consists of powerful provisions that hold employers liable if these steps are not complied with. This means that the training should not be considered a mere compliance activity but an obligation that every concerned employer must meet. The new law clearly states that training along with other sexual harassment prevention techniques must be taken seriously and should aim to create a more inclusive and healthier workplace.
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