In 2018, California signed Senate Bill 1343 into law. The bill expanded sexual harassment training requirements for employers in the state. Most significantly, the law specified that sexual harassment training requirements applied to any employer with more than five employees, even those whose employees were temporary or part-time.
The new law also mandated training for all employees, not just supervisors, and put some additional parameters on how quickly and often training was required.
The new requirements were originally supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. However, many employers had questions and concerns. First of all, they wondered if they have to rush to train all of their employers in 2019 to comply with the law. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which was responsible for enforcing these new regulations, stated that yes, training in 2019 was mandatory. However, this interpretation meant that many employers would have to train their employees twice in a two-year period.
There were also other questions about the new legislation, which specified that supervisory employees must be trained within the first six months of hire but didn’t specify when non-supervisory employees had to be trained.
Finally, the new training courses that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing were supposed to provide for employers weren’t available until late 2019, which made it difficult for employers schedule and train employees by the original deadline.
This confusion prompted the California state senate to pass another law in August of 2019 providing flexibility for employers who had already trained their employees in 2019 and giving employers until Jan. 1, 2021 to completely comply with the new rules.
More About the “Clean-Up” Legislation (SB 778)
Here’s a summary of the changes and clarifications in the new law:
- The deadline for compliance has been bumped forward by a year, until Jan. 1, 2021.
- Employers who trained their employees in 2018 can now maintain their two-year cycle and provide subsequent training in 2020 while still complying with the deadline.
- Employers who train their employees in 2019 aren’t required to provide refresher training until two years from the time the employee was trained.
- Non-supervisory employees must be trained within the first six months of hire, just like supervisory employees.
However, SB 778 doesn’t impact the portion of the original law addressing seasonal and temporary workers. The expansion law requires that seasonal, temporary, and other employees hired to work for less than six months must be trained within 30 calendar days of their hire date or within 100 hours worked (whichever occurs first). These requirements did go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
More Background on the New Requirements (SB 1343)
California has long had some of the strongest protections for workers and employees in the U.S.
Before, California law only required companies with more than 50 employees to comply with sexual harassment prevention training requirements. The expanded regulations, as we mentioned, apply to any company with more than five employees.
Under SB 1342, part-time employees, temporary employees, and independent contractors all count toward your five-employee minimum. The only exceptions are employees who are hired through a temp agency, in which case it’s the temp agency’s responsibility to make sure the workers receive the required sexual harassment prevention training and education.
As we mentioned, the other significant change when the law was expanded was that all employees must receive sexual harassment prevention training. The previous law only required supervisors to be trained. SB 1343 still requires the completion of two full hours of training for supervisors, while other employees are only required to complete one hour of training.
How ELI has Adapted Our Training
At ELI, we are proactively monitoring the space so we can provide our clients with top-level, compliant training that meets state requirements. Our content development experts and attorneys closely watch for legal developments and respond with up-to-date versions of our training to ensure compliance with state and city laws.
Historically these programs have been focused on teaching employees to speak up and let employers know if there is a problem. The updated versions speak to items like Title 7 and highlight state-specific reporting mechanisms.
The Letter of the Law Vs. The Spirit of the Law
When local laws change how we do business, it can be disconcerting and disrupt the organization.
No one wants to think about getting cited or issued a fine because they didn’t correctly document their training or contract with a trainer who held the specified credentials.
However, the law isn’t intended to create a series of administrative hurdles or headaches. It’s intended to make sure all employers are taking the issue of sexual harassment seriously.
Passive education programs that don’t require any feedback from participants or guidance from experts are often little more than an exercise in check-the-box compliance. That makes them a significant waste of time and money. You need something that will actually impact employee behavior leading to better business outcomes, fewer legal risks, and a more engaged workforce.
While it may sound simplistic, the best defense against a sexual harassment claim is to not have a sexual harassment claim.
Check-the-box training rarely delivers true change. At ELI, we’re doing everything we can to create dynamic, interactive, memorable, and effective sexual harassment training.
If you want to learn more about how to get this training at your organization, we hope you’ll try a free demo of ELI training.