New Training Requirements for California Businesses in the Wake of #MeToo

New Training Requirements for California Businesses in the Wake of #MeToo

Governor Brown recently signed a bill expanding sexual harassment training requirements in California. SB 1343 places new mandates on small businesses in California to train employees about sexual harassment, a requirement that had previously only applied to employers with fifty or more employees.

“Mom and Pop” businesses with as few as five employees will now be required to provide at least two hours of classroom or “other effective interactive training and education” to supervisory employees about sexual harassment.

What’s more, all businesses with at least five employees will also be required to provide at least one hour of training to non-supervisory employees, an even broader expansion of the training requirements in Government Code section 12950.1. The statutory training requirements previously only applied to supervisory employees. Even seasonal and temporary employees must be trained, which must take place within 30 days of hiring or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.

This means employers will need to monitor and keep track of training for every person in their employ. The only exception would be those hired through a temporary agency, who must be trained by the agency instead.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is required to develop or obtain two online training courses on sexual harassment prevention, one for supervisory and one for non-supervisory employees. It must make the training available on its website. Employers can develop their own courses or have employees take the DFEH training courses.

Employers must meet this mandate by January 1, 2020. Thereafter, employers must provide this training to both classes of employees every two years. The training must be provided to new employees within six months of the employee assuming his or her position and it may be combined with other training.

This change to existing law is just one of multiple sexual harassment related bills that came out of the California Legislature this year which were signed into law recently by the Governor. The need for the law cited in the legislative bill analysis cites the #MeToo movement revealing the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. The bill analysis references the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Select Task Force on Harassment and the risk factors for harassment it has identified. Those include a young workforce, isolated workplaces, workplaces with significant power disparities, and workplaces that rely on customer service or client satisfaction. The bill is described in the bill analysis as “taking a modest step toward a more equitable workplace” through educating the workforce on their rights and responsibilities.

While the new requirements may be seen by some as a “modest step” in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, they are sure to create not so modest costs for employers, especially for small businesses who have never had to comply with any training obligations before. Employers will now have to get up to speed on the various requirements and keep track of even temporary employees’ training schedules to ensure compliance. Even large companies who have already been complying with supervisor training requirements now must create training programs for its entire workforce. It is unknown how long it will take the DFEH to develop and make available the online training courses mandated by the bill. Since employees only have until January 2020 to train its entire workforce, they should start thinking about developing or locating training courses with qualified trainers.

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