General Counsel Corner – Sexual Harassment Training Laws Can Be Great For Your Business

By Lee R. Goldberg, Esq.
Of Counsel – Ford & Diulio, P.C.
[email protected]
October 23, 2020

We all know that California’s labor laws are myriad, complex, easy to violate, and often unreasonably burdensome and oppressive on California businesses.

Well, there is actually one set of relatively new “labor” laws in California (effective 8/30/19) that, if applied and enforced in earnest, can actually produce great benefits for your business well beyond simply complying with statutory requirements. I speak of amended California Government Code §12950.1 (sexual harassment education and prevention training laws).

In general, Cal. Gov’t Code §12950.1 provides that all California employers hiring 5 or more employees 1 must by January 1, 2021 provide: (a) 1-hour of sexual harassment education and prevention training to ALL nonsupervisory employees; and (b) 2-hours of training to ALL supervisory employees (that means everyone – even the C- Suite executives).

The law also provides that all nonsupervisory new hires must receive the training within 6-months of the hire date, and supervisory employees within 6-months of appointment as a supervisor. Re-training is required every two years thereafter. Of course, there are other rules for temporary and seasonal workers, but not necessary to go
into the weeds here – but they require training as well.

The training modules must meet statutory requirements, which are somewhat specific as to the type and scope of training, manner of training, and issues to be covered. It is best practice, and my regular advice to clients, to use a professional HR or training company skilled at providing compliant training modules. Certificates of Completion are to be issued to all employees who complete the training (which means ALL employees must have them by January 1, 2021).

So, how does this help and not burden the employer? Let’s first get clear, sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal and civilly actionable under both State and Federal law (not to mention it is viscerally disrespectful and immoral), and can carry some very harsh penalties for violation.

In addition, considering the sharp increase in harassment and other employee claims brought by a plethora of contingency, class action, and PAGA lawyers these days, all costing businesses many millions of dollars annually, legal compliance is your first step toward insulating your business from these “folks” and this type of exposure. Of course, insurance is also a great idea – and insurance companies will make you comply with this training as a condition of insurance, and some even provide the training modules.

More importantly, if done correctly, and diligently and strictly enforced, workplace employee anti-sexual harassment policies (which go beyond simply the training modules) are one of the major steps a business can take to ensure a safe, efficient and dedicated workforce.

In a world where employees are increasingly made to feel like replaceable cogs, and in return are simply trading hours for dollars, companies can show their employees loyalty and respect. Show them that their health, safety, and well-being matters to the company, and employees will give loyalty in return (if you hire correctly).

These types of workplace culture programs have been shown in study after study to increase company efficiency, reduce worker absenteeism, reduce employment claims, increase employee retention rates, increase employee loyalty, and increase production. These programs also mitigate the types of legal claims mentioned above because happy employees don’t sue their employers.

In case you missed it – workplace culture programs, some of the most important of which are anti-sexual harassment policies, can mean tens of thousands of dollars to the bottom line for a company. So I guess the State may have inadvertently done some good for corporate California.

Give it a try … at the very least, you will have a respectful and pleasant place to go to work every day.

But remember, there is only about 2-months left to comply with your legal training requirements.

CAUTION: It’s not just traditional employees included in the count to 5 or more. It also includes service providers to your business, temps, and other 1099 contractors that work at your business premises. In all likelihood, if you have 5 or more people working at your business premises, including part-time, you probably should comply. Cal. Gov’t Code §12950.1(h)(1).


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