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California’s sexual harassment training requirements: The final word

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

If you’ve been looking for definitive guidance on California’s Sexual Harassment Training Law (AB 1825), it’s finally here. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission issued final regulations implementing this first-in-the-nation law on April 23, and the Office of Administrative Law approved the regulations on July 18.

The regulations include specific direction on the type, length and frequency of harassment training that California employers must provide to their employees. Specifically, all covered employers must provide two hours of training to all supervisory personnel every two years.

Who must train (and be trained)

The law covers employers with 50 or more employees or, as clarified by the regulations, “any person engaged in any business or enterprise in California, who employs 50 or more employees to perform services for a wage or salary, or contractors or any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly.” Note that there is no requirement that the 50 employees or contractors work at the same location or that they all work or reside in California.

The law required covered employers to provide at least two hours of training to supervisors beginning Jan. 1, 2006. Current supervisors must receive two additional hours by Jan. 1, 2008, and every two years thereafter.

Newly hired or newly promoted supervisors must be trained within six months of assuming a supervisory position. After that, they fall into the same two-year cycle as current supervisors.

What counts as “training”?

The law specifies that the training must be conveyed via “classroom or other effective interactive training and education.” The training must include:

  • Information and practical guidance regarding the federal and state statutory laws prohibiting sexual harassment.
  • Information about the prevention and correction of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • The remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.
  • Practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors on how to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

The commission envisions more than just lectures. Instead, the training must incorporate “questions that assess learning” and “skill-building activities that assess the supervisor’s application and understanding of” the material. The training should include hypothetical situations that stimulate discussion among the participants and familiarize supervisors with sexual harassment issues.

Online training

Employers can use online or web-based training to satisfy their obligations under the law. However, the training must be “individualized, interactive, computer-based training created by a [qualified] trainer and an instructional designer.” When reviewing the training materials, employers should ask themselves:

  • Does the training ask for significant feedback to demonstrate that the supervisor understands the concepts being taught?
  • Does the training make supervisors go over areas in which they have trouble before moving on?
  • Does the training provide a link to or directions on how to contact a trainer who will be available to answer questions and provide guidance about the training within a reasonable period of time?

How your policy fits in

In addition to training, employers should have an anti-harassment policy in place. It should include a definition of harassment and instructions about how to report harassment.

Employees who feel they have been harassed should report the harassment to their immediate supervisor. However, if the supervisor is the one being accused of harassment (or the alleged victim simply does not feel comfortable broaching the subject with his or her supervisor), the employer should provide another point of contact for the employee.

Best practice: Export CA training

Multistate employers that operate in California and other states can leverage California training in their other operations. Other states do not yet require this kind of training. But employers that implement the training in their locations outside California can make the new standards the de facto standards for training companywide. That will look better in a California court if a supervisor is ever accused of harassment. 

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