By Casi Jewett, MAOD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Move over, Harassment! Discrimination and retaliation have officially muscled their way into anti-harassment policies. Consider them equal opportunities in the workplace now.
The changes to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act that went into effect on April 1, 2016, requiring all employers to have a policy preventing harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, also set new standards for mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. Although many employers already have written anti-harassment policies in place, these new rules require the policy meet an even higher standard. Employers will most likely need to update their policies to make sure they meet the new requirements of the amendments to FEHA.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to all California employers and prohibits harassment in employment based on race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, and military and veteran status.
The new FEHA amendments also add to the already lengthy list of compliance requirements for sexual harassment prevention training, which has been required under AB 1825 in California since 2005. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors and managers. “50 or more employees” includes part-time and temporary employees, and independent contractors. The training must meet very specific criteria and needs to be provided within six months after the hiring or promotion of a new supervisor, as well as every two years for ALL supervisors and managers.
The new regulations also clarify that audio, video, and computer training are “supplemental” and those modalities alone cannot be relied upon to meet the training requirement under AB 1825. Employers choosing to use web-based or e-learning training options must now meet additional criteria such as having a “qualified expert” available to answer questions, interactive participation among the attendees, and training on the employer’s particular harassment and reporting procedures. A copy of the webinar must be kept as well as all questions and answers submitted to the trainer. The additional burden with web-based and e-learning tools is an indication that in-person training may be the preferred to harassment prevention training.
Farm labor contractors have other training requirements related to harassment prevention, as outlined in California Senate Bill 1087.
With these amendments in effect, it is a good time for California employers to review their policies, record keeping, and training procedures to ensure compliance. Starting off on the right foot by ensuring compliance now may likely save on problems later that could require a lot more time, effort, and money to correct.