Harassment in the workplace is already a problem in itself. Still, when it takes a turn for the worse in the form of unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment, a company will always be held liable. The #MeToo movement has, for instance, paved way to new laws and requirements to prevent sexual harassment in California.
On August 30, 2019 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 778 into law. At its core, the Bill aims to lessen sexual harassment cases and provide a more secure environment for employees. Moreover, it provides a longer period for employers to comply with requirements and facilitate training to prevent sexual harassment. The deadline has been extended by a year from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021.
What is Sexual Harassment?
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has defined sexual harassment as any unwelcome visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This includes showing sexually suggestive objects or photos, staring with malicious intent, making sexual comments and jokes, displaying sexual pictures or objects, using slurs or derogatory language, asking for sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits, and the like.
Types of Sexual Harassment
There are two types of sexual harassment in the workplace recognized by federal law:
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
This occurs when a person in a higher position forces their subordinate to give in to sexual advances in exchange for a promotion or other employment benefits. Quid pro quo harassment could also extend to situations where an employee may face negative consequences at work if they fail to meet or accept the supervisor or manager’s advances. Actions taken against them may include demotion, negative reviews, or loss of employment.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment
This type of harassment takes place when a fellow employee creates an aggravating, hostile, or unsafe environment for their co-workers. The following factors must be present before concluding that an employee is contributing to a hostile work environment:
- The actions are severe and pervasive
- The person’s conduct is unsolicited or uncalled for
- Their behavior is considered offensive
Preventing Sexual Harassment in California through Training
Who Has to Comply?
Employers who have five or more employees are required to provide preventive sexual harassment training to all workers. They must accomplish the requirements by January 1, 2021.
What Does the Training Involve?
Two hours of training and education is required for supervisors and at least one hour for regular employees. Newly hired regular employees, on the other hand, must be given interactive and effective sexual harassment training within six months of their start date.
The same rule also applies to those who have recently been promoted to a supervisory position—they must undergo training within six months of their promotion. After they’ve completed their training, their employer should provide a new training program once every two years.
What Topics Does the Training Cover?
The following topics should be part of the training program:
- The definition of sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
- Laws regarding the prevention of sexual harassment
- How to prevent sexual harassment
- How to tell if someone is being sexually harassed
- What to do if someone is currently experiencing sexual harassment
- Actions a supervisor must take when sexual harassment in the workplace happens
- The responsibility of supervisors to report cases of sexual harassment
- Hypothetical situations where employees can apply what they’ve learned
- The process of filing a complaint
- Steps on how to create an effective and concise anti-harassment policy
- Other forms of sex-based discrimination such as gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation
Where Can Employees Take the Training Session?
Training may be facilitated and done within a classroom setting or through interactive activities. The classes can come in the form of e-learning form or through seminars. Online sources offer sexual harassment training such as Interactive Services and Compliance Training Group.
Why is Training Important?
Easy access to information on the internet has made employees more informed about their rights in the workplace. Websites are treasure troves of information where people who have experienced sexual harassment can learn about the process of filing a lawsuit and how much it costs.
But even with the wealth of info available online, training still provides a more holistic approach to preventing inappropriate conduct. Going through a training program ensures that all employees understand how to avoid harassment and contribute to building a more positive and inclusive work environment. After all, training can safeguard against abuse. It also offers legal protection to organizations.
Legal protection against harassment is more important, especially with the rising cases of harassment in the U.S. Reports show that there have been 7,609 sexual harassment allegations filed under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2018 alone. This doesn’t include the charges filed with state or local Fair Employment Practices Agencies.
Allowing sexual harassment allegations surface and spread can have a significant impact on employee productivity, as well. Not having a secure work environment may result in absenteeism and an overall higher turnover rate. This is why employers and their team need to prevent harassment through proactive training sessions.
Consult a Expert Sexual Harassment Attorney
Even though California has extended the deadline for its sexual harassment training requirements, one can’t afford to let their guard down. Meeting the requirements of the new law calls for advanced preparation, especially for companies that don’t currently provide training. If you need legal assistance regarding the new law, reach out to Mesriani Law Group. Our sexual harassment lawyers are well-versed in the law and can provide the legal counsel you need. Get in touch with us to schedule a FREE consultation.