California employers can push pause on expansion of Harassment Prevention Training for non-supervisory employees



October 16, 2019

Employment Law Alert

Author(s): Alicia C. Anderson, Hillary Baca

On August 30, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 778, which extends the deadline for employers to comply with some of FEHA’s new harassment prevention training requirements to January 1, 2021.

As employers might remember, Senate Bill 1343, which then-Governor Jerry Brown signed on September 30, 2018, significantly expanded the scope of the Fair Employment and Housing Act’s (“FEHA”) mandatory sexual harassment training and required compliance with the new standards by January 1, 2020. On August 30, 2019, however, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 778, which extends the deadline for compliance with some of the new requirements to January 1, 2021.

SB 1343’s expanded harassment training requirements

Before SB 1343, FEHA required employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of prescribed training and education regarding sexual harassment, abusive conduct, and harassment based on gender to all supervisory employees within six months of hire and once every two years thereafter.

The passage of SB 1343 revised FEHA to require that employers with five or more employees, including temporary or seasonal employees, to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to all nonsupervisory employees by January 1, 2020, and once every two years thereafter. The bill also required California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing to develop or obtain one-hour and two-hour online training courses that would meet the requirements of FEHA and post them online on the department’s website.

Deadline for compliance extended to January 1, 2021

With the compliance deadline for expanded training approaching, SB 778 gave employers some breathing room. The bill pushed back the mandatory harassment training deadline for non-supervisory employees and the expansion of mandatory harassment training for supervisory employees of smaller employers (i.e., those with five to 49 employees) to January 1, 2021. It also provided clarification on the training requirements for employees who received harassment prevention training in 2019. Unlike SB 1343, SB 778 specifically states that employees who received harassment training in 2019 do not have to be retrained until after two years have passed, and then every two years thereafter.

Considerations for employers going forward

While employers now have an extra year to train their non-supervisory employees, they should seek the advice of an attorney to ensure that their harassment prevention trainings and policies meet the requirements of FEHA. Employers must also ensure that temporary and seasonal workers receive training. Training employees can devour a significant amount of time and resources, and employers should avoid waiting until the last minute to start thinking about logistics and ensuring compliance with the law.

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