Preston Clark, J.D. | May. 10, 2019

20 Questions: Complying with California Anti-Harassment Training Requirements

Question: In 2019, do I need to RETRAIN California employees who were trained in 2018?

Answer: Yes.  According to recent guidance from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), 2019 is a mandatory training year under SB1343, irrespective of who you may have trained in 2018.

Question: Are we responsible for training temporary and seasonal workers?

Answer: It is your responsibility to ensure that all employees are trained to your company standards and familiar with your company practices.

The California law includes independent contractors (defined as those providing work under a contract for each working day in 20 consecutive weeks in the current calendar year or preceding calendar year) and per diem, or temporary, workers as “employees” for coverage under the law. Beginning January 1, 2020, for seasonal and temporary employees, or any employee that is hired to work for less than 6 months, an employer must provide training within 30 calendar days after the hire date or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.

Question: What happens if some employees fail to take the training despite an employer’s best efforts to make it available, and to require everyone to take it?

Answer: Employers are required to ensure that all employees receive and complete the training.  Employers may take appropriate administrative remedies to ensure compliance.

Question: When will the DFEH’s online training courses be available?

Answer: S.B. 1343 requires that DFEH make online training courses available on the prevention of sexual harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace. DFEH expects to have such trainings available by late 2019. In the interim period, DFEH is offering a sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention toolkit, including a sample sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training. Employers may use the training in conjunction with an eligible trainer to provide sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training.

The DFEH must develop, obtain, and make available on its website the one-hour and two-hour anti-sexual harassment training courses for supervisory and non-supervisory employees. Employers may develop their own training platforms, as long as they comply with the law’s requirements.

Question: Does the Employer have to provide paid time for this training?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Does the training need to be completed in a single session?

Answer: As a matter of law, no.  However, logistically, breaking up the session could create complications related to attendance.

The training may be conducted with other employees, as a group, or individually, and broken up into shorter time segments, as long as the two-hour requirement for supervisory employees and one-hour requirement for non-supervisory employees is reached.

Question: Is there a free course available?

Answer: S.B. 1343 requires that DFEH make online training courses available on the prevention of sexual harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace. DFEH expects to have such trainings available by late 2019. In the interim, DFEH has made available a toolkit that may be used in conjunction with an eligible trainer to provide sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training.

Question: What have proven to be the best methods for anti-harassment training?

Answer: Determining which approach to anti-harassment training is right for your organization can be a difficult decision. We recommend the following resources to help you select the right solution: (1) Online Anti-Harassment Training Vendor Guide, (2) Online v. In-Person Anti-Harassment Training, and (3) Best In-Person Anti-Harassment Training Providers.

Question: What if you have a remote manager in a different state, but their direct reports are in CA?  Should the manager have CA manager training?

Answer: Although training managers outside of California is not required by the California law, it is a best practice to train all managers on harassment training.  This is particularly true in a scenario such as this, where direct reports are receiving harassment training. The company will want its managers to be in a position to answer any questions, issue spot and understand their role in ensuring a harassment-free workplace.

Question: Is “annually” calendar year or employee anniversary?

Answer: In California, training may be tracked by anniversary date or annually, provided all employees are brought into compliance with that annual date (this may result in some employees receiving the training more often than required).

Question: If an employee has taken the 1 hour of training and then becomes a supervisor/manager, will they need to complete the manager training within 6 months of that job change?

Answer:  Yes.

Question: If someone is promoted to a supervisor role and they recently completed the non-supervisory training, would the recommendation be to have them complete another full 2-hour supervisor training or just a one-hour catch-up training?

Answer: Technically, a one-hour “catch-up” training that meets all of the requisite supervisor requirements would be sufficient if the supervisor has already received the one-hour non-supervisory training.  But, you’ll want to confirm that the “catch-up” training meets all of the state’s requirements as many vendors’ supervisory trainings span two hours, with the requisite supervisory content distributed across the entire two-hour course.

Question: Do independent contractors need to be trained?

Answer:  Maybe. Under the California law, a contractor who provides work under a contract for each working day in 20 consecutive weeks in the current calendar year or preceding calendar year needs to receive anti-harassment training by the company.

Question: Do summer interns need to be trained?

Answer: Yes.  For the purposes of determining coverage, “employees” include full-time, part-time, and temporary employees as well as contractors (those who provide work under a contract for each working day in 20 consecutive weeks in the current calendar year or preceding calendar year).

Question: What if the third-party training platform that my company uses doesn’t have the option for employees to ask questions?

Answer:  Find a new vendor.  The California law provides that training may be provided in a classroom setting with an in-person trainer, through “e-learning” programs, and through online seminars. The content of classroom and online seminar training programs must be created and taught by a trainer–as defined in the regulations. E-learning programs must be created by a trainer and an instructional designer who has expertise in current instructional best practices.

An e-learning program must provide a link to a trainer who can answer a trainee’s questions within 2 business days. Other types of technology (e.g., audio, video, computer) may be used in conjunction with classroom, online, and e-learning programs.

Question:  Should a supervisor located in New York who manages employees in California complete the California training or the New York training?

Answer: Great question.  Given the fact that the manager is located in New York and there are nuances in the law in New York versus that in California, the manager should receive the New York training.  However, you may consider having the manager participate in the California training as well, to the extent feasible, since the employees that he/she manages may have questions related specifically to the California content and the manager should be prepared to field such questions.

Question: If an employee asks a question during the training, how long do we have to respond with an answer?

Answer: CA law requires trainers to track any questions asked by employees during the training and to provide a response within two business days.

Question: Can we use videos in our one-hour employee training?

Answer: Yes.  The DFEH allows different types of technology (e.g., audio, video, computer) to be used in conjunction with classroom, online, and e-learning programs.

Question: If the company is headquartered in California, but has a remote workforce in other states, do the remote employees also need to take the California training?

Answer:  No. The current law only requires those employees working in California to participate in anti-harassment training.  If the remote employees are based in another state with an anti-harassment training requirement, the employees should be trained according to that state’s training requirements.

Question: Who is responsible for training: the company or the temporary staffing agency?

Answer: The employer/company is responsible for training each employee, even if they are employed in a temporary capacity (defined as less than 6 months) within 30 days of hire effective January 1, 2020.

Question:  If a supervisor takes the supervisor training, do they also need to take the regular employee training?

Answer: Provided the supervisor training meets all of the requirements under the California law regarding content, the supervisor is only required to take 2 hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees.

Question: My organization is a hospital and our doctors are not employees of the hospital.  Do they still need to attend training and if so, supervisory or non-supervisory?

Answer:  The employer has the responsibility to train its employees.  Depending on the relationship with the doctors, the hospital may have responsibility to train, to the extent the doctors are classified as contractors and meet the timing requirements.

The hospital should confirm with the employing entity that it will be training the doctor employees.  Doctors should receive the supervisor training if they have the authority to hire, fire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, required, or discipline other employees.  Or, the responsibility to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend that action, if, in connection with the foregoing, the exercise of that authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.

Question: The California law requires training for companies with 5 or more employees, do the 5 employees or contractors have to work at the same location or all reside in California?

Answer: No.  There is no requirement that the 5 employees live in California or work in the same location.

Question: What is the definition of “supervisory” employee for the training requirements?

Answer: Any individual having the authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or the responsibility to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend that action, if, in connection with the foregoing, the exercise of that authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.

Question: Does our training need to spend a specific amount of time on the elements of “abusive conduct”?

Answer: Not specifically under the law, but it should be covered in a meaningful manner.

Question: Is bystander intervention training required in California (as it is in New York City)?

Answer: No, bystander intervention training is optional.  An employer may provide bystander intervention training that includes information and practical guidance on how to enable bystanders to recognize potentially problematic behaviors and to motivate bystanders to take action when they observe problematic behaviors.  The training and education may include exercises to provide bystanders with the skills and confidence to intervene as appropriate and to provide bystanders with resources they can call upon that support that intervention.


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