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Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it’s unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age or sexual orientation.

The FEHA prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate transactions, financial credit and public accommodations. Employers can’t discriminate against any member of the protected classes listed above in hiring, compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

The law is California’s version of the federal Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the ADA all rolled into one. But unlike federal anti-discrimination laws, the FEHA covers employers with as few as five employees.

Employees can file FEHA discrimination complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which investigates complaints to determine whether discrimination has occurred.

But California law provides employees with a way to short-circuit these administrative remedies and take employers directly to court. Employees may request a “right-to-sue” letter before the DFEH investigates and move the proceedings directly to state court. For more information about the law, go to www.dfeh.ca.gov/.

Sexual harassment training

California requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory personnel every two years.

Covered employers had to complete the first round of training by Jan. 1, 2006. Current supervisors must receive two more hours of training by Jan. 1, 2008, and every two years after that.

Newly hired supervisors and those promoted into management must undergo the training within six months of taking their new positions. Thereafter, they fall into the same two-year cycle as current supervisors.

Regulations specify that the training must be high quality, and trainers may convey the information via “classroom or other effective interactive training.” Specifically, the training must include:

  • Information and practical guidance on federal and state statutory laws about sexual harassment.
  • Information about preventing and correcting sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims.
  • Practical examples for supervisors on how to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Employers can track training in two ways: (1) Under the individual tracking method, employers keep separate records on each employee, noting when a person underwent training and the next scheduled training date; (2) under the training-year tracking method, employers may designate one year to train all supervisory personnel and then retrain them two years later. (In using this method, you would need to keep track of new supervisors separately.)

Employers must maintain training records for at least two years and include the employee’s name, date, type of training and the trainer’s name.   
Excerpted from California's 10 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: California Employment Law.

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