AB 1661: Everything You Need To Know

AB 1661: Everything You Need To Know

The Facts

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AB 1661 (California Assembly Bill 1661) is a sexual harassment prevention training mandate introduced by Senator McCarty on January 13, 2016. This new sexual harassment prevention law requires local agency administrators, including board members, to get sexual harassment prevention education and training. 

This harassment prevention training prerequisite is similar to the sexual harassment prevention training already mandatory for supervisors and supervisory level employees under AB 1825. Hence, we can say that this new law asks local agencies to diversify their sexual harassment prevention training programs and include agency officials and administrators.

The initial stage to bringing local state employees to justice is by providing appropriate sexual harassment prevention education and training to all workers, regardless of their rank and position in the workplace. 

AB 1661 - A Brief Overview 

For the past few years, the California FEHC (Fair Employment and Housing Commission) identified a rising statistic in apparent sexual harassment claims and allegations against California local agency authorities. Given this increased number of accusations and lawsuits, the new sexual harassment prevention training mandate, AB 1661, came into action on September 29, 2016.

  • This AB (Assembly Bill) 1661 make it mandatory for all California local agency officials to get comprehensive sexual harassment prevention training if the local agency provides salary, compensation or stipend to these officials.
  • Also, note that these local agencies refer to the counties, cities, charter counties, charter cities, and special districts in California. 
  • While this statute only reaches for legislative authorities and elected administrators receiving payment to receive sexual harassment prevention training, it remains at the discretion of these local agencies to direct sexual harassment prevention education and training for the entire workforce.
  • This new law further mandates the local agencies to administer training and education to supervisory employees for a minimum of two hours a month. 

Also, in extension to the above provisions directed by Assembly Bill 1661, there are prerequisites for training organizations for their offered content to get ratified and deemed adequate. This AB 1661 mandates sexual harassment prevention training using state and national statutory language and “functional examples” or real-life situations that are preventive actions for prejudice, retribution, and sexual harassment. 

Moreover, instances of this can be sexual harassment sufferers getting dismissed wrongfully from the workplace or the company being unsuccessful in putting an end to sexual harassment practices in the organization.

Who is known as an Employer Under this Law?

A covered employer under the AB 1661 law is a person who runs an organization in California and holds 50 or more employees. Apart from this, a person who fulfills the below stipulations is also known as an employer. 

  • Any person regularly employs 50 or more individuals in their company.
  • Any individual who is continually accepting the employment of 50 or more employees delivering assistance under a contract [i.e., independent contractors]
  • Any person working as an indirect or direct representative of a company

Similar Laws Preceding AB 1661

This Assembly Bill 1661 originated from the existing Assembly Bill 1825, and it got enacted because many people in California felt that administrative officials were exempt from AB 1825’s provisions. Also, as these officials do not fall under the category of “supervisors,” there was no sexual harassment prevention training for officials. 

In addition, as the provisions for AB 1825’s training overlap with those established under AB 1661, it is expected for local agency authorities to comply with the laws of both if they remain compliant with Assembly Bill 1661.

Objectives and Training Criteria of AB 1661

The objective set by Assembly Bill 1661 is to promote a cooperative environment, security and health, and collective vision to appropriate workplace conduct. Also, the California legislature outlined Assembly Bill 1661 with the expectation that this legislation will lower costs related to sexual harassment settlement lawsuits for local agencies. 

This bill further assists in eradicating a grey zone of AB 1825 and elucidates that sexual harassment prevention training is also mandatory for local agency officials, notwithstanding prior obscurity in the provisions stated by AB 1825. Apart from this, the training criteria mandated for officials by AB 1661 is as follows: 

  • Obtaining sexual harassment prevention training within the initial six months of accepting the post or joining the workplace
  • Conducting at least two hours of harassment prevention training on national and state regulations prohibiting sexual harassment, remedies available to sexual harassment targets, and “functional examples” to train administrators on how to deter sexual harassment, prejudice, and vindication in the organization
  • Delivering in-person or online sexual harassment prevention training to administrators via self-study lessons with assessments
  • Trainers must provide documentation as proof of participation to fulfill this Bill’s requirements.
  • Maintaining training documents for a minimum of five years by the training agency for employees and administrators and the entity who conducted the harassment prevention training because these public documents remain subject to revelation under the California Public Records Act. 

Content Included in a Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

The content included in sexual harassment prevention training can vary slightly depending on the coach that the organization hires. Also, the state government holds a separate training program under the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

Also, when imparting sexual harassment prevention training to the workforce, organizations must never consider the status of employees because every employee remains entitled to a friendly workplace without such superficial elements impeding their work performance. In addition, even with Assembly Bill 1661 for sexual harassment prevention in place, there is still scope for progress with education and training to present employees with adequate means to reduce sexual harassment, prejudice, and discrimination towards employees. 

Therefore, all the harassment prevention training programs from other private enterprises should remain similar to the state-sanctioned training program. Also, according to the government-issued directive, the content in the sexual harassment training program should discourse the following:

  • Model Conduct

The trainer must exercise due care to define what kind of conduct is acceptable in the organization. This outline serves as a guide for the employees and employer and facilitates healthy relationships between employees and employers. Also, issues like bias, sexual harassment, gender identity, and many more must remain included in the harassment prevention training.

  • Defining Offensive Behavior

Another practice to lower the odds of sexual harassment is to deliver an exhaustive definition of offensive behavior. According to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), abusive behavior is the malicious or improper conduct of any person in a workplace.  

Also, this hostile malicious behavior might include verbal abuse, menacing or intimidating physical behavior. The degree of malice can also depend on the views of the HR executive at the company. 

The Bottom Line 

In a nutshell, AB 1661 bill states that “every employee should own the same chance to operate in a secure and harassment-free workplace.” There have been occurrences where local state workers have fallen prey to sexual harassment at the hands of their administrators and coworkers, which is why the Legislature labored hard to develop preventive steps.

Moreover, by efficiently ordering sexual harassment prevention training for local organizations and employers and demanding selected administrators to keep a validation of completed harassment prevention training, a gap will get bridged between Assembly Bill 1661 and Assembly Bill 1825.

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