Sexual harassment is not a problem of the past, as recent news reports highlight. Although most employers are well aware that sexual harassment is unlawful under both California and federal law, that doesn’t stop the problem from occurring.
An issue that often surfaces during sexual harassment investigations is workplace culture. What tone is being set at the office? Is the office culture one where sexual jokes and banter are okay?
Keep in mind that California employers have an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct. Recent amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) reinforce this duty.
Harassment Prevention Is Not an Option; It’s California Law for All Employers.
Employers should focus organizational efforts on prohibiting all harassment in the workplace because employers are strictly liable for harassing acts committed by supervisors and can also be liable for harassing acts committed by employees.
Even if allegations of harassment are ultimately unproven, the associated costs and potential negative publicity can be high.
Under California law, employers are required, among other things, to establish and maintain:
- A written discrimination, harassment and retaliation prevention policy that includes specific provisions. The mandatory policy must be distributed to all employees with acknowledgment that the employee has received and understands the policy.
- A compliant complaint process, including information on how an employee can bring a complaint, your investigatory process and supervisor reporting obligations. The complaint process must be included in your written policy.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
California companies with 50 or more employees are required by law to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter.
CalChamber offers an online, interactive 2-Hour California Harassment Prevention Training making it easy to educate employees and fulfill compliance obligations.
Despite the law being more than 10 years old, some companies are still unaware of their legal obligation to provide the training.
Regardless of company size, harassment prevention training for all supervisors and employees is highly recommended. Training is an essential component of any harassment prevention program — especially when combined with company leadership on these issues. Those at the top level of company management need to not only set the proper tone but also dedicate the necessary time and resources to meet their prevention obligation and ensure that their efforts are effective.
Training shouldn’t focus just on what is unlawful conduct. If you wait until conduct is unlawful, you’ve waited too long! Instead, training should help identify the type of disrespectful conduct that could, if not stopped, lead to a hostile work environment.
Want more information? Mandatory Harassment Prevention Training in California is available for nonmembers to download. CalChamber members can also access this white paper on HRCalifornia.