Labor and Employment Alert: No Joke: California Continues to Micromanage Required Sexual Harassment Training

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Since 2005, California employers with 50 or more employees have been required to provide at least two hours of interactive sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees once every two years.  In 2015, California added “abusive conduct” (or bullying) to that mandatory harassment training.  And now, beginning April 1, 2016, California employers will need to update their anti-discrimination and harassment training and policies to meet extensive new requirements imposed by California’s Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC).

The FEHC adds a new regulation (section 11023) to the California Code of Regulations – which “was written to give employers guidance based on consensus best practices that are easy to comply with and do not impose any new burdens for employers already in compliance.”  Most employers should already have written anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies.  Now, the employers’ policies must:

In addition to revising their policy, the new regulations require that employers disseminate the policy by providing a copy to employees (with an acknowledgement for the employees to sign); by posting the policy on a computer network and tracking that employees have read and acknowledged receipt of the policy; or by discussing the policies upon hire.

With respect to the required sexual harassment training, the new regulations require the training to explain a supervisor’s or manager’s responsibility to report sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.  The training must further detail the negative impact of abusive (i.e. bullying) conduct in the workplace and on the victim.  Employers are required to document the sexual harassment training, such as with sign-in sheets, and retain those records for at least two years.  In addition, employers must retain copies of the written training materials, questions, and answers.

The FEHA regulations make clear that employers have “an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct” and “an affirmative duty to create a workplace that is from the employment practices prohibited by the Act.”  Revising the sexual harassment/discrimination/retaliation policy, ensuring proper training, and documenting those efforts aid employers in their affirmative duties.  Contact your Vorys lawyer if you have questions about California’s new sexual harassment regulations or other equal employment opportunity requirements.