New Law Requires Sexual Harassment Training
Sexual harassment and assault headline in the news everyday. The Me Too movement fueled organizations to address and train employees to understand what sexual harassment is, appropriate work behavior and how to prevent it from happening.
The problem lies in developing and delivering training when companies are not sure how to proceed. California began leading the way in late 2018 by requiring mandatory sexual harassment training for everyone. A previous law existed since 2005, covering California organizations with more than 50 employees, the training was only required for supervisors and managers.
The law itself, SB 1343, requires companies with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training and education to all workers, whether supervisors, managers or employees, by January 1, 2020. Other requirements include:
- Training must be provided every two years.
- Supervisory employees must have two hours of training every two years.
- Non-supervisory employees must have one hour of training every two years.
- Training must be completed within six months of hire or placement into the position.
- Seasonal/temporary employees must have training within 30 days of hire or 100 hours worked.
- Training should be provided by the service employer, not the client.
What should be included in the training to meet the requirements of SB 1343?
- A component of preventing abusive conduct in the workplace.
- Definition of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
- Training must be interactive, taught in a classroom setting, online or another form of learning.
- Training can be completed in short segments if the required hourly total is met.
- Employers can develop their own training programs if they meet the law’s content requirements.
In terms of content, what does the law require for a sexual harassment training program?
- A clear and understandable definition of sexual harassment and misconduct. This includes inappropriate sexual, physical and verbal behaviors in the workplace like offensive language, sexual touching, and asking for sexual favors.
- Review of federal and state laws pertaining to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is forbidden under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects applicants, employees, unpaid interns, professional relationships and independent contractors from sexual harassment.
- Establish consequences for infractions. These can include reprimands, demotions or even termination. If a sexual assault occurs, it can also include criminal charges.
- Discuss who is liable when a breach occurs. Supervisors, co-workers, customers and vendors can all be held liable depending on the circumstances.
- Information made available to everyone regarding how to file a complaint or make a report. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is required by law to make a poster, fact sheet and online training materials available.
- Information on the professional way to handle complaints, investigate and take corrective actions.
When designing sexual harassment training to meet the new law’s requirements, consider using activities to reinforce the information and ensure all participants understand their responsibilities. A few ideas include:
- A sexual harassment quiz to test knowledge and how to apply what has been learned to real-life situations.
- Role-playing scenarios, known as Situation-Behavior-Impact Technique. This activity can be done several times over with each group member playing a different role every time.
- Post-role-playing discussions to ascertain what was effective and what was learned.
Whether you have supplied your own training, brought in outside trainers, or used Learning Management Systems (LMS) online courses, you want to make sure you are in compliance with the new law’s requirements by January 1, 2020. Take time now to review what your organization has been doing to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Is it interactive? Up-to-date? Will it meet the new requirements for supervisors, managers and employees?
A hostile workplace not only lowers productivity, but it can also be costly in terms of legal fees, lawsuits, and a loss of reputation for your organization. Make sure you are in compliance, not only because it is required, but also because it is the right thing to do to help your company thrive.
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