In the wake of the #MeToo movement, California passed a sweeping amendment to its workplace safety and anti-harassment standards. These new standards are codified under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) with the enactment of SB 1343.

Key changes to California’s workplace sexual harassment policies

In previous iterations of FEHA, mandatory anti-sexual harassment training regulations only applied to larger companies with 50 or more employees. With the enactment of SB 1343, any firm with five or more employees must now provide anti-sexual harassment training to both supervisors and non-supervisorial employees. This also extends to firms who hire temporary or seasonal employees.

These new requirements must be completed by January 1st, 2020. Additionally, the Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) will ensure the availability of one- and two-hour anti-sexual harassment training courses online. Companies may still create their own training as long as it complies with the new requirements.

What does this mean for employers and employees of smaller firms?

For business owners and managers, it means all employees must be given at least one hour of sexual harassment training within six months of hire. For supervisors, this requirement is increased to two hours within six months of hire. After the initial training session, the training must be renewed every two years for all employees. For those employers who hire seasonal or temporary workers, this window is significantly truncated – all initial training needs to be completed within 30 days of hire. Employers can decide if the training will be conducted as a group or individually.

The new stipulations will require a greater level of efficiency for Human Resources departments within companies of all sizes. Firms may want to consider the requisite training to be a part of the orientation process before a new employee begins their assigned duties.

How can employers approach this sensitive topic?

When onboarding a new employee, don’t imply that the training is occurring simply because it’s legally-mandated. Think of the new training requirements as an opportunity to reinforce your company’s values.

To start, the entire company, especially leadership, should be on board with setting expectations and promoting a harassment-free workplace. Developing a culture of intolerance for sexual harassment and creating a safe space for employees to report harassment signal a company’s commitment to proper behavior.

Another way to approach the training is to supplement with other behavioral courses, like cultural sensitivity training or general workplace culture-building.

What employees should know now

As we focus on the presence of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s essential for employees to know their rights. With the extension of legislation now covering even smaller companies, employees have an additional layer of protection from unwanted sexual advances and other forms of harassment in their place of employment.

If you have experienced sexual misconduct in the workplace, contact a sexual harassment lawyer immediately. At McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP, our sexual harassment attorneys have been tirelessly fighting for the rights of workers. If you believe your workplace did not adequately protect you from unwanted behavior, or if you were retaliated against for speaking up about sexual harassment, contact us at 310-474-1582.