What You Need to Know About New California Workplace Harassment Training Laws

There’s not likely to be an organization in the U.S. today where workplace harassment isn’t top of mind for staff, management, and HR professionals. The New York Times has it right, “The Most Watched Show at the Office? Sexual Harassment Training Videos”, and it’s for a good reason.  Companies are increasingly at risk for the actions—or inaction—of their staff members, and even vendors and customers. Employers must be increasingly vigilant and increasingly proactive about protecting employees by addressing harassment at work and providing prevention training that helps to protect employees. 

That’s particularly true in California where new workplace harassment training laws will soon be taking effect. There are some specific nuances here that employers, regardless of where they’re based, that have employees in California need to be aware of—particularly if they are in specific industries.

Harassment Prevention Training for Janitorial Workers

California has carved out janitorial workers for some specific attention in terms of harassment prevention training. AB 547, approved by California Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2019, requires that the Director of Industrial Relations convene an advisory committee to aid in developing training standards specifically for janitorial employers and employees.

Harassment Prevention Training for Construction Employees 

SB 530 and SB 778 offer additional direction for employers with employees in the state of California. SB 530 extends the timeline for requiring construction industry-specific harassment training for seasonal and temporary workers to Jan. 1, 2021. SB778, however, maintains a date of Jan. 1, 2020, for a training requirement for seasonal and temporary workers who must receive training within 30 days or after 100 hours of employment.

Clarifying Confusion

While California has been among the first of the states to enact new laws impacting workplace harassment training, these laws have been changed and amended in some cases, creating an increasing amount of confusion. SHRM provided some clarification for California employers in a recent blog post by attorney Michael S. Kalt, the Director of Government Affairs for the California State Council of SHRM. 

  • SB778 extended the deadline for most employers to comply with new harassment prevention training requirements from Jan. 1, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021. “This extension will provide additional time for those larger employers who previously trained their supervisors to rain their nonsupervisory employees, and for smaller employers to train both their supervisory and nonsupervisory employees,” Kalt writes.
  • SB778 also provides additional time for employers to determine whether they will use DFEH training materials.
  • The Jan. 1, 2021, deadline addresses a concern that supervisors who received training in 2018 would need to be retrained in 2019 and clarifies that employers that provided legally sufficient training in 2019 will not be required to do so again until two years after the 2019 training.
  • Nonsupervisory employees must be trained within six months of hire.
  • Temporary workers are addressed differently. SB778 doesn’t address requirements for seasonal or temporary employees. 

Staying on Top of Shifting Workplace Harassment Laws and Regulations

It is likely that laws related to workplace harassment will continue to evolve and shift over time. Employers must remain constantly on top of these shifts to ensure that they are not only being compliant but also to ensure a safe, respectful and supportive environment for all employees. 

California Harassment Training

92% of California’s workforce—roughly 15.5 million workers—are required to receive sexual harassment training on a biannual basis. For HR and compliance professionals it can be difficult to navigate the state’s new mandates.