2019 has seen a flurry of activity pertaining to sexual harassment and sexual harassment training. More and more state legislatures are investing time and resources into crafting laws designed to prevent harassment in the workplace.
This year we’ve seen state laws prohibiting arbitration agreements and limiting the ability of companies to enter into confidentiality agreements related to sexual harassment claims.
There has also been significant movement in some states in establishing laws or expanding laws requiring sexual harassment training. California and New York are two of the most notable examples of the expansion of sexual harassment training requirements.
In this post, we’ll take a look at what’s changed in California and New York related to sexual harassment training requirements.
New York Adds Sexual Harassment Training Requirements
Both New York State and New York City have recently adopted laws that require sexual harassment training.
New York’s state law took effect in October of 2018 and requires all employers to provide sexual harassment training on an annual basis. The training is required to be interactive and must clearly define what sexual harassment is.
It also must provide examples of behavior that would be considered off-limits and teach employees how to report the behavior. The law requires this training to take place by October 9, 2019.
New York City’s Stop Sexual Harassment Act took effect in April of 2019 and pertains to any organization with more than 15 employees. While the scope of the training is similar to the state law, the specific content that must be addressed varies.
For example, New York City requires more in-depth content covering the complaint process for the organization, the role of bystanders, and what supervisors must do in the event of a notification.
To ensure compliance, employers in New York City need to ensure their training addresses both the state and city’s requirements.
California Expands the Scope of its Requirements
California has long had some of the strongest protections for workers and employees in the U.S. In response to the public outrage over rampant workplace sexual misconduct and harassment, which has been much reported on as part of the #MeToo movement, Senate Bill 1343 was signed into law in 2018. The new law expands sexual harassment prevention training requirements for employers in significant ways.
The new training requirements must be observed by January 1, 2020. This means that many California-based employers will need to work quickly (if they haven’t already) to get their employees’ training updated by the end of 2019.
Before, California law only required companies with more than 50 employees to comply with sexual harassment prevention training requirements. The new regulations, however, apply to any company with more than five employees. This, of course, means the regulations will apply to many more companies.
And if your company relies mostly on part-time employees, temporary employees, or independent contractors, it is still a requirement. Under the new law, these hires also 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.California-based employers will need to work quickly (if they haven’t already) to get their employees’ training updated by the end of 2019. Click To Tweet
The other significant change is that under the new law, all employees must receive sexual harassment prevention training. The previous law only required supervisors to be trained. The new law still requires the completion of two full hours of training for supervisors, while other employees are only required to complete one hour of training.
Employers must conduct their sexual harassment prevention training by the end of 2019 in order to comply with the 2020 deadline. After that, SB 1343 requires employers to schedule sexual harassment prevention training once every two years.
For temporary employees or contractors, the training is required within either the first 30 calendar days following their hire date, or before they’ve worked 100 hours (whichever comes first).
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.
Additionally, the ELI team carefully went through both the New York State and New York City laws and updated the training materials to ensure 100% compliance with the regulations.
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 slapped with 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 huge 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.
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