In the wake of repeated, high-profile allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace, organizations across the country are re-examining their policies, and many are voluntarily re-writing their rules when it comes to employee training, reporting and response procedures when allegations are made.
But it’s not just the accepted standards and operational guidelines at individual businesses that are under discussion; the law is changing.
Case in point is in California, where a 2018 statute requires every company with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training and education to all workers - both supervisory and non-supervisory – by Jan. 1, 2020 (although for newly hired employees, the deadline may be earlier).
If your organization has not already begun planning its compliance strategy, the time to start is now.
The new law is a significant change from the previous requirement. Until now, only employers with more than 50 employees were required to provide training and only to workers in supervisory or management roles.
With more companies now covered by the mandate, and more employees within every organization now subject to training, the task of ensuring complete compliance within the next 12 months will be a substantial undertaking.
If you are a small or mid-sized business owner or manager, you need to begin by understanding the specific requirements of the new law, and then you need to put a plan in place to make ongoing training and education, including new employee training, a standard part of your workplace policies.
While large companies have substantial in-house human resources staff to quickly ramp up their training efforts, smaller organizations – many of whom may be implementing training programs for the first time – will likely benefit from outside, expert assistance, including help from professional employer organizations (PEOs). PEOs can manage many aspects of the employment relationship, from payroll and insurance administration to legal compliance and employee education.
First, know the new law
According to the new law’s provisions, training sessions for managers and supervisors must be at least two hours in length, while training for nonsupervisory, or “front-line,” employees must be only one hour.
Any new employees must be trained within six months of starting at your company. If you have an employee who is hired to work for less than six months in a seasonal or temporary position, you need to provide training within 30 calendar days after he or she starts, or within 100 hours worked, whichever comes first. After the initial Jan. 1 deadline, employees must be trained on an ongoing basis at least every two years.
It is important to note that any prevention training that took place in 2018 will not count toward the Jan. 1 deadline, which means that every employee in your company must be trained or re-trained in this 2019 calendar year. So, you have less than 12 months to get the job done.
Next, put your plan in place
The task of finding qualified training partners, implementing employee sessions and coordinating schedules for your staff is of course time-intensive.
For business owners and managers who are focused on building profits and outmaneuvering the competition, the HR challenges associated with the new California law can be a major distraction, which is why outsourcing may very well be the best option.
Businesses should determine how they will assemble training sessions and materials as soon as possible. You also will need to post and distribute required information right away, including a required sexual harassment poster and an unlawful harassment pamphlet. This information can be found through the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Acting quickly to comply with the new California sexual harassment training law will not only ensure that your company is on the right side of the fair employment debate, it will demonstrate a commitment to your employees and to the mission of creating a productive and harmonious workplace culture. That commitment and culture will be good news all around – for the people who help your business succeed, for your customers and for the future.