The US Senate Bill (SB 1343) states that every employee in the US must devote a particular number of hours towards sexual harassment prevention training before the first of January 2020. This bill was passed in conjunction with a previous law known as AB 1825. As per this law, any enterprise that hires more than 50 employees has to receive sexual harassment prevention training once in every two years.
In the revision brought about by SB 1343, enterprises that have 5 employees or more are required to attend a sexual harassment prevention training program. This requirement extends to every employee, both supervisors and non-supervisory staff. However, this law applies only to the companies present in the state of California. This law aims to create a work environment free from harassment and thus, making it safer.
SB 1343 goes further and even provides a minimum number of hours that each employee needs to attend. As per the guidelines, both employers and employees have to:
The content present in a training program can differ slightly depending on the trainer that the company hires. The state government has its own training program which is a creation of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). All the training programs from other privately owned enterprises should be similar to the state-sanctioned program. As per the government-issued mandate, the content in the program should address the following:
The trainer has to take special care to outline what kind of behavior is acceptable in the workplace. It acts as a guide for an employee or employer and helps to foster healthy work relationships between them. Topics like discrimination, sexual harassment due to one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and many more is covered. The program also lists different examples to give a better practical understanding.
Another way to reduce the chances of any sexual harassment is to provide a comprehensive definition of abusive behavior. As per the DFEH, abusive conduct refers to the behavior of an individual in a workplace that can be characterized as malicious. The malicious behavior which can be viewed as hostile may include verbal abuse, threatening or intimidating physical conduct. The degree of malice can also depend on the views of the HR executive at the company.
However, the trainer has to make it certain that the first offense by an employee or employer should not have drastic consequences unless it is very severe abuse.
If there is an occurrence of sexual misconduct in the workplace, the victim should know the process on how to report these incidents. This is an important topic to cover since 63% of women will not complain about these issues. In addition to this, 79% of men did not intervene and kept the issues to themselves. Acknowledging the process to report and hold the perpetrator accountable will be an essential aspect of the training program.
The program also puts into place the necessary measures to prevent sexual harassment. This includes bystander intervention training (as per the rules of SB 1300) and anti-bias concepts. Certain steps or policy implementations can take place to prevent the misconduct from ever occurring.
The mandate also involves a list of actions that can be taken against a perpetrator. The program gives awareness to all the individuals, of the legal actions taken on them in case they are responsible for such an incident. Thus, every person in the company acknowledges the consequences that come with abusive conduct at work.
Although the state mandate only provides minimal information regarding the prevention of sexual harassment, companies tend to go further than this. The programs created by private enterprises tend to contain additional information that has a more comprehensive approach to the prevention of sexual misconduct.
The topics can range from building skills for better communication and adhering to ethical behavior. Therefore, the companies are capable of complying with the state mandate as well as create an overall improvement in the culture of the workplace.
The effectiveness of the program also depends on how interactive the sessions are. Watching an hour-long video that has many terminologies and facts thrown at the audience will not engage anyone in the audience. Therefore, the sexual harassment prevention training program should be interactive and involve everyone in the audience.
The platform while discussing these topics should be open to everyone to voice their problems or questions. It is essential that there must be interactions among the trainers and the trainees during the session. Once the session is complete, it is good to take surveys to know how far it reached the audience.
However, whichever program a company chooses, they should ensure that the material discussed in the program is compliant with SB 1343 and is created by experts like psychologists and other professionals.
Since the passing of SB 1343 in 2018, the state of California has also taken care to update the rules. The new version of this bill is now SB 778 which came into effect on the 30th of August 2019. This revision extended the deadline up till which the companies could introduce the training programs. That is, the previous deadline was the 1st of January 2020 whereas the new deadline would be in 2021, which gives the right amount of time for the enterprises to obtain the training resources for their employees.
These training programs are a smart move in implementing the consequences of sexual harassment that one should face.
The implementation of SB 1343 has influenced around 92% of the state’s workforce. This shows how far it reached the private organizations in gaining a positive stress-free workspace. The overall effect of SB 1343 has led to a significant decrease in incidents taking place and an uptick in the number of victims that report the incident.