Question:

I know that California law requires certain employers to provide sexual harassment training to their supervisors. I thought I had read somewhere that this law was being revised or rewritten. Is this still the law in California, or have there been changes I should know about?

Answer:

You are correct that, as of January 1, 2006, California law requires all employers engaged in any business or enterprise in California with 50 or more full-time, part-time or temporary employees to provide “supervisors” with a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training, once every two years. This change in the law came about with the September 30, 2004 signing of AB 1825 by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since the passage of that law, however, questions have arisen with regard to the law’s requirements and exactly how employers are supposed to comply with them. For that reason, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) recently went through the process of soliciting public comment on the regulations and then revising them, in an effort to clarify the applicable legal requirements for California employers.

The comment and revision process for the sexual harassment training regulations proved to be a somewhat lengthy process. In fact, the FEHC drafted multiple versions of the regulations that were rejected by the Office of Administrative Law, forcing the FEHC to revise the rules further. However, on July 18, 2007, the Office of Administrative Law approved the FEHC’s newly proposed regulations implementing AB 1825. The newly titled “Sexual Harassment Training and Education” regulations will therefore become effective with the force of law on August 17, 2007.

Some of the highlights of the newly adopted regulations include the following:

  • Covered Employers: The law applies to those California employers with 50 or more employees, regardless of employee locations.  However, note that only supervisors actually located in California are required to receive training.
  • Effective, Interactive Training: The training can be done in a traditional classroom setting, via interactive computer programming, via an internet-based seminar (“webinar”), or through a combined use of audio, video and/or computer technology in conjunction with any of these three methods. The law requires that the training be interactive; if a trainer is not physically present during the training, one must be available to answer questions within two business days after the presentation.
  • Tracking Compliance With the Law: Supervisors who have undergone training may now track their compliance in one of two ways. Employees may either be tracked individually (i.e., ensuring that they receive training once every two years), or they may follow the “training year” method, in which an employer designates a year during which all supervisors must receive training, and thereafter must retrain those supervisors by the end of the next “training year,” two years later (e.g., supervisors trained during a 2007 training year would have to be retrained in 2009).  A record of who received training, when, what type, and from whom must be maintained for two years.
  • Qualified Trainers: The new regulations more strictly define who may present sexual harassment training.  “Qualified trainers” now include a ttorneys admitted for two or more years to the bar of any state and whose practice includes employment law; “human resource professionals” or “harassment prevention consultants” with a minimum of two or more years of practical experience in sexual harassment prevention training, advising employers with regard to harassment issues, or investigating and/or responding to sexual harassment complaints; and “professors or instructors” in law schools, colleges or universities who have a post-graduate degree or California teaching credential, and either 20 instruction hours or two or more years of experience in a law school, college or university teaching about employment law.

    > Click here to view the full text of the newly revised regulations as a PDF file from the
    Fair Employment & Housing Commission website.
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