SB 1343 – A 2018 California sexual harassment training law addressing mandatory sexual harassment prevention training in California – initially imposed an employee training deadline of January 1, 2020. However, the language in SB 1343 about the timing of the required training–as well as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s November 2018 interpretation of that language about retraining employees who had already received training in 2018–raised many questions and concerns among employers.
A new law designed to provide some clarifications – SB 778 – has been passed by the California Legislature and signed by California’s Governor, Gavin Newcom, in August 2019. This law provides some clarity to the business community and extends the deadline for SB 1343’s mandatory training requirements to January 1, 2021. Even though the deadline for training under SB 1343 has been delayed, employers with employees in California should be thinking now about how they will comply.
Requirements of SB 1343 – California’s Sexual Harassment Law
Previously, California required supervisor training but not for employees overall. SB 1343, California’s sexual harassment law, changed that, making training mandatory for all staff members. That, alone, is a significant shift and added cost for employers. The key impacts of SB 1343 include:
- A requirement for all employers with five or more employees to provide one hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention to non-supervisory employees—two hours of training for supervisors.
- All employees means full-time, part-time and temporary staff.
- Temporary and seasonal employees must receive training within a specific timeframe after hire.
- The five employees do not need to work at the same location—or to be all working in California.
- Training must be provided every two years.
- Training must be provided as part of employment; in other words, employees must be paid for the time spent in training.
The requirements are clearly broad and clearly designed as a visible response to the rising awareness of harassment that has been amplified by the #MeToo movement. But, however visible, will the resulting training be a viable way to tackle the problem and stem the rising tide of harassment? Not necessarily.
Why Most California Harassment Training For All Employees Don’t Work
We know that most traditional California harassment training for all employees doesn’t work despite an enormous amount of time and money being invested by companies to remain compliant. Why? To a large degree because the focus of much of this training is on compliance—and that’s not a topic that tends to engage all employees.
Instead, we have found that a focus on the do’s rather than the don’ts is a better way to get employees’ attention, engagement, and action. In fact, while compliance certainly is an important driver of harassment training, we’ve found that focusing more on creating an inclusive and supportive culture, and teaching employees bystander intervention skills can help engage employees in the process more effectively. Employees need to understand:
- What a supportive culture looks and feels like—what are the company’s positive behavior expectations and values?
- What role they can play in supporting this culture through their own actions—this is where bystander training can come into play.
- That everyone in the company, from senior leaders on down, are committed to maintaining a supportive culture—and that they demonstrate that commitment through their own actions, behaviors, and responses.
New Opportunities to Resonate
For employers in California, or with employees in California, harassment training laws are an opportunity to do a better job with educating employees—and supervisors—about their role in ensuring a respectful work environment. Instead of viewing these new regulations as a burden, consider viewing them as an opportunity to shift your training focus from what you don’t want to what you do want in terms of paving the way for respectful workplace interactions.
While SB 778 provides employers a bit more time to address these new requirements, many are exploring options for ensuring that their approach going forward is not only compliant but impactful.