Changes to California’s Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Law
By Sara Boyns

On August 30, 2019 Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 778, which extends the date for employers with five or more employees to provide mandatory sexual harassment prevention training to most of their employees.  Prior law stated that the training had to be completed by January 1, 2020, but SB 778, which takes effect immediately, extends the time limit for providing the mandatory training and education to January 1, 2021.  However, this new law still requires new nonsupervisory employees to be provided the mandatory training within six months of hire, and new supervisory employees to be provided the training within six months of becoming a supervisor.  The new law requires the training to be provided once every two years.

Other important provisions of this new law include:

  • Employers who provided mandatory sexual harassment prevention training and education in 2019 do not have to provide it again until 2021, and every two years thereafter.
  • The training may be completed by employees individually or as part of a group presentation, and may be completed in shorter segments, as long as the applicable hourly total requirement is met.
  • Employers are defined as any person or company regularly employing five or more persons or regularly receiving the services of five or more contract workers, or any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, the state, or any political or civil subdivision of the state, and cities.
  • Employers must also include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the training and education.  “Abusive conduct” means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.
  • Employers must also provide training inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation as a component of the sexual harassment prevention training and education. The training must include practical examples inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, and must be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise in those areas.
  • Beginning January 1, 2020, for seasonal, temporary, or other employees that are hired to work for less than six months, an employer shall provide the mandatory training within 30 calendar days after the hire date or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.
  • If a temporary employee is employed by a temporary services employer to perform services for clients, the training shall be provided by the temporary services employer, not the client.
  • Different rules apply to agricultural workers.
  • Employers may develop their own training, may send their employees to a live or web based training provided by a trainer who meets the required qualifications, or may direct employees to view the online training course that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) will develop and make available on its internet website. The DFEH states the training will be available “by late 2019.”

You can see the full text of the new law at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB778.  While employers have more time to comply with the mandatory sexual harassment prevention education and training requirements, it is important to accurately calendar training deadlines for all new hires, new supervisors, and other employees to ensure compliance with the law.