July 26, 2022

What Should Be Covered Under the California Sexual Harassment Training Code?

If you’re an employer in California, you’re most likely already aware that you are responsible for providing sexual harassment prevention training to your workforce. However, it’s possible, whether your business is newly established or has been operating in the state for a long time, that you may not be fully up to speed on all the statutory requirements of the law, particularly since many changes were made in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Knowing who needs to receive training, how often and how quickly training needs to be provided, who is qualified to lead training, and what must be covered are essential to ensuring that your sexual harassment training program is compliant with California law.

Defining Sexual Harassment

According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), sexual harassment is “unwanted sexual advances or visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” This covers a wide range of unwanted behaviors, from unwelcome staring or comments all the way through to offering employment benefits in exchange for sex or threatening/carrying through with retaliation if sexual advances are turned down. Preventing this type of behavior in the workplace is in the best interests of both employer and employees—not just because it prevents abuse that destroys workplace morale, exposes businesses to costly liability, and can even tarnish a company’s public image, but also because it promotes a work environment where expectations are clearly understood and misunderstandings are minimized.

Which Employers Must Provide Training?

Under current California law, all employers with 5 or more employees must provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory and managerial employees and one hour of training to nonsupervisory employees (including those in temporary and seasonal positions).

When and How Often Must Training Be Provided?

For supervisory and managerial employees, sexual harassment training must take place within six months of them assuming their position. For nonsupervisory employees, training must take place within six months of the date they were hired. By contrast, seasonal or temporary employees (who are hired for less than six months) must receive training within 30 days of the date they were hired or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.

Ongoing sexual harassment prevention training must be provided every two years.

How Can Training Be Provided?

Training can be provided in a classroom format, online, or in other formats, provided it is interactive and effective. Employees may complete the requirement individually or in a group. Training may also be divided into segments, as long as the total hourly requirement is met.

Who Can Lead Training?

Training must be led by a qualified trainer. The three types of qualified trainers are attorneys who have been licensed by the State Bar for a minimum of two years and whose practice area includes employment law, human resource professionals or harassment prevention consultants with a minimum of two years’ relevant experience in sexual harassment prevention, and certain higher education professionals with the appropriate credential and employment law training. (Note: state agencies do not validate a trainer’s credentials; it is up to the employer to verify a trainer’s qualifications.)

What Subject Matter Must Training Cover?

As detailed on the DFEH website, California sexual harassment prevention training must explain:

  • The definition of sexual harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • The statutes and case-law prohibiting and preventing sexual harassment;
  • The types of conduct that can be sexual harassment;
  • The remedies available for victims of sexual harassment;
  • Strategies to prevent sexual harassment;
  • Supervisors’ obligation to report harassment;
  • Practical examples of harassment;
  • The limited confidentiality of the complaint process;
  • Resources for victims of sexual harassment, including to whom they should report it;
  • How employers must correct harassing behavior;
  • What to do if a supervisor is personally accused of harassment;
  • The elements of an effective anti-harassment policy and how to use it;
  • “Abusive conduct” under Government Code section 12950.1, subdivision (g)(2).

Training also must discuss harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, which shall include practical examples inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

Finally, any training must include questions that assess learning, skill-building activities to assess understanding and application of content, and hypothetical scenarios about harassment with discussion questions.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers are required to keep documentation of the training they provided to employees for a minimum of two years to meet compliance requirements. These records should include names of all employees trained, date(s) of training, any sign-in sheets, copies of all certificates of attendance or completion, the type of training, a copy of all written or recorded materials making up the training, and the name of the training provider.

Making Compliance Easy

If you want to take the anxiety and hassle out of making sure that your sexual harassment prevention training program complies with all the requirements of California law, Bridge Training Consultants can help. Our effective presentations are available in both in-person and online formats to give your business flexible options to meet your training needs. With both English- and Spanish-speaking trainers, we have bilingual workplaces covered! Our engaging, interactive format doesn’t just check a legal box—we make training informative, understandable, entertaining, and interactive so your employees learn and retain more. To find out more about how Bridge Training Consultants can make it easy to get your sexual harassment training program right, contact us here today.

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