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New California Law Makes Additions to Required Harassment Training

Posted November 13, 2017 by Sasha Butkovich in Keeping Compliant
California companies with 50 or more employees will need to add a new component to their harassment training, effective January 1, 2018.

As the state of California furthers its efforts to implement fair hiring practices and employee-friendly workplaces, Governor Jerry Brown has been busy passing new labor laws.

On the heels of legislation banning employers from asking job applicants about salary and criminal history, the governor has also passed a law adding to the existing required harassment training.

Harassment Training in California

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) already requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of prescribed training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees.

This training should take place within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position and once every two years, as specified. With the signing of this new law, the training will now have some additional requirements.

What is the new law about?

On October 15, 2017, Governor Brown signed SB 396 into law. This legislation adds requirements to the mandated workplace harassment training provided to supervisory employees to specifically address harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. This portion of the training must include specific examples of such harassment, and must be presented by trainers with knowledge and expertise in these areas.

On its most basic level, the law intends that LGBT employees be treated with equal respect.

By addressing these protected characteristics in training for supervisors, SB 396 aims to build awareness and prevent workplace harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. On its most basic level, the law intends that LGBT employees be treated with equal respect.

Including LGBT discrimination as a component of harassment training is an opportunity for employers to educate supervisors, and emphasize that work performance should be the main criteria for evaluating employees. It is also a chance to inform supervisors of the standards of conduct required in the workplace, as well as any disciplinary actions that employees may face if the standards are not met.

What steps should I take as an employer to stay compliant?

This law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Before that date, employers will need to take a few actions to ensure compliance.

  • Update Training - First, employers should update their training to add the new required content prohibiting and preventing harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Again, this section will need to include practical examples of this type of harassment.
  • Update Company Policies - Employers should update their company policies to reflect the guidelines set forth in the training. Ensure these policies are communicated and distributed throughout the organization.
  • Add the Appropriate Posters - FEHA requires each employer to post a poster on discrimination in employment, which includes information relating to the illegality of sexual harassment. In addition, SB 396 requires a new poster developed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing regarding transgender rights, effective January 1, 2018. Both of these posters should be displayed in a prominent and accessible location in the workplace.

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There are additional steps that employers can take to ensure an inclusive and respectful workplace beyond what is required by the law. One example is to instruct supervisors and employees to use an individual’s preferred name and pronouns. Another is to designate an HR professional to help any transitioning employees with any workplace-related aspects of their transition process.

As always, consulting with an attorney is the best way to ensure your business takes all the necessary steps to stay compliant with applicable employment laws.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.