Just this past week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation focused on driving down workplace sexual harassment.
To achieve this aim, the bill, SB 1343, mandates that organizations throughout the state provide all non-supervisory employees with at least one hour of sexual harassment training by January 1, 2020. Supervisors, in turn, need to receive two hours of training in the same timeframe. These educational thresholds will need to be met again every two years following the 2020 deadline.
Altogether, 92 percent of the state’s workforce—roughly 15.5 million workers—will now need to receive sexual harassment training on a biannual basis. Here’s what HR and compliance professionals need to know.
What does SB-1343 change?
Since 2005, California law has required employers having 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors every two years. SB 1343 changes this by requiring employers with five or more employees to provide non-supervisory employees with at least one hour of the training every two years, in addition to requiring these employers to provide (or continue to provide) two hours of the biennial supervisory training.
What do I need to do?
Considering the expansive nature of the mandate, your business will likely need to take a number of measures over the next year to satisfy its many requirements.
Your organization will need to schedule and deliver training to your workforce prior to the 2020 deadline. You’ll be able to use the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s (DFEH) upcoming online training sessions, or your business can use an alternate curriculum, as long as it covers the mandated topics.
What does SB 1343 require workplace training to cover?
For those seeking to create their own training, or purchase existing training content, the mandate requires instructional material to teach learners about the federal and statewide ban on sexual harassment, information and practical guidance on sexual harassment prevention, abusive conduct prevention, corrective actions against those who commit harassment, and remedies available to people who experience harassment.
Training must also teach these additional concepts with practical examples: harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity, and discrimination, retaliation, and abusive conduct.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act defines abusive conduct like this:
“Abusive conduct” means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.
Does SB 1343’s require online training or live training?
Employee education may take the form of online or live training, the latter of which can be delivered to employees individually, or in groups. Further, those who provide training sessions are required to have “knowledge and expertise” in harassment prevention, discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Trainers also need to have expertise on harassment that occurs on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity, among other requirements specified in state regulation
Note also that training does not need to be completed in a single session. The hourly requirements may be met by multiple training sessions so long as they add up to the two hours required for supervisors or hour for non-supervisory staff.
How soon after starting am I required to train new staff members?
As stated above, both supervisors and non-management staff members are required to receive training by the first mandated deadline, January 1, 2020. After that, both employee groups will need to be trained within six months of their start dates, or dates of promotion to supervisor.
Does SB 1343 apply only to full-time employees, or do part-time and temporary workers require training as well?
Seasonal or temporary staff must receive non-supervisory training within the first 30 days or 100 completed hours of work—whichever occurs first. The legislation also explicitly mentions that migrant and seasonal agricultural workers must be trained in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. If temporary employees are employed by a temporary services agency, that agency is required to provide the training.
Are there any other requirements I should know about?
Note that the law’s five-employee threshold isn’t limited to full-time employees, as it includes employers who “regularly” receive services in accordance with a contract, or those who act directly or indirectly as an “agent” of the employer.
So far, SB 1343 represents a significantly more ambitious approach to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace than AB 1825. While training alone isn’t a silver bullet, when combined with accountability, and effective policies and procedures, organizations all over the state may make a dent in the prevalence of these harmful events.