The Golden State began leading the way in workplace anti-harassment training in 2004, establishing Assembly Bill (AB) 1825, which requires supervisors to learn about the subject. Covered under the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), AB 1825 states that employers must “take reasonable steps to prevent and correct wrongful behavior in the workplace.” In 2018, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, California took things a step further, enacting Senate Bill (SB) 1343, an amendment that makes several significant adjustments to the training requirements.
- Every two years, the new bill requires that all California employers with more than five employees hold anti-harassment training, versus the previous threshold of 50 employees.
- The bill expanded the actual reach of the training requirement to encompass all employees, including seasonal and temporary employees, versus just supervisory staff.
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Staying Compliant with Anti-Harassment Training in California
You may think that if you held training in 2018, you’re in the clear and compliant with AB 1825 until 2020. That would be true were it not for the 1343 amendment. SB 1343 states that: “an employer who has provided this training and education to an employee after January 1, 2019, is not required to provide training and education by the January 1, 2020, deadline.” The FAQs published by the DFEH further state, “(e)mployees who were trained in 2018 or before will need to be retrained.”
The DFEH has clarified that employees must retake anti-harassment training even if they received it in 2018, and that “employees” means both supervisory and non-supervisory roles. While the DFEH understands it can be an undertaking to provide harassment prevention training again so soon, it must be done to comply with the new amendment.
Why is Anti-Harassment Training Important?
When it comes to harassment, people often think only of verbal or physical sexual harassment between people of the opposite gender. However, workplace harassment takes on many forms, including offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, ridicule, offensive pictures, stalking, bullying, cyberbullying, and more. Harassers can be bosses, subordinates, co-workers, and even non-employees such as a company vendor. The victims of harassment can differ greatly, and they may be targeted due to race, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, age, mental capabilities, and physical conditions including pregnancy.
In addition, staying compliant with anti-harassment law can save manufacturers millions. The manufacturing industry ranks third out of twenty industries for total sexual harassment charges filed, at almost 12%. In 2018, more than 13,000 allegations of harassment were made, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Some of the biggest cases and largest awards were in California and were not due to sexual harassment; a quick internet search uncovers numerous cases, including:
- $18 million awarded for age discrimination
- $185 million awarded for gender and pregnancy discrimination
- $21 million awarded for disability discrimination
Additional Steps to Consider
When we last discussed AB 1825 regulations, we included steps manufacturers can take now to create an anti-harassment work environment. These ideas are evergreen, and can be incorporated into your workplace today!
1. Hold team-building events.
Fun activities help people see each other in a different light. It gets them to look past their differences and instead focus on working together. It also fosters communication, innovation, and creativity, and can even boost overall job performance!
2. Diversify the factory floor.
By hiring and promoting qualified women and minorities, power dynamics can become more balanced and result in fewer harassment claims (for example, while there are some powerful women in manufacturing, just 29 percent of employees are female).
3. Create a common definition of harassment.
Employees may interpret what constitutes harassment in different ways, so it’s important to create a defining document that all must sign and adhere to. Examples include:
- Making off-color jokes or gestures
- Transmitting inappropriate emails
- Displaying or wearing inappropriate clothing, objects, pictures, or posters
- Playing sexually-suggestive or racially-insensitive music
- Non-work related bodily contact outside of the handshake and high-fiving variety
- Repeated requests for a date or propositioning for sex
Workplace harassment has been dominating the public conversation lately, and California wants to put an end to it. While your employees may have partaken in training last year, it’s important that they retake training again before 2020 in order to remain compliant. Again, you can find more information on the DFEH website and use guides, brochures, and posters they’ve included in their online tool kit. We encourage manufacturers to not think of harassment training as a hassle, but rather a way to create a better—and more productive—work environment.