COVID-19? Mandatory California Harassment Training Still Must Go On

08 September 2020 Blog
Author(s): James M. Nicholas
Published To: Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Coronavirus Resource Center:Back to Business

In 2018, California enacted legislation mandating employers with five or more employees to provide harassment prevention training to all supervisory and non-supervisory personnel by no later than January 1, 2020. Employers subject to California’s mandatory training requirement must provide one hour of interactive harassment training to non-supervisors and two hours of such training to supervisors every two years, with the training covering a multitude of related subjects.

While the original deadline for the completion of the training was January 1, 2020, on August 30, 2019, the California statehouse issued legislation extending the deadline to January 1, 2021 and clarifying that employers who provided compliant harassment training in 2019 were not required to provide follow-up training for another two years.          

Given the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 and the resulting stay-at-home and quarantine orders issued by a variety of state and local authorities, many California employers have understandably found it difficult to offer interactive training this year. As a result, there was a growing belief that the January 1, 2021 compliance deadline might be further extended. However, despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in California and elsewhere, there have been no moves initiated by either the California legislature or Governor Newsom’s office to extend the January 1, 2021 compliance deadline, which therefore remains in effect.

Against this backdrop, California employers who have not yet complied with the harassment training mandate are advised to take immediate steps to develop and offer a harassment training program to all employees. Notably, while in-person training would certainly satisfy the interactive requirement of the statute, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has issued guidance permitting “live training in a classroom, online, or in any other effective, interactive format” and which may be completed by “employees individually or as part of a group presentation and … in segments as long as the total hourly requirement is met.”

To this end, DFEH provides its own, free online harassment training course that satisfies the requirements of California law and includes an option for an employer to receive a certification that its employees have completed the training.

Whether creating their own harassment training program or utilizing the DFEH offering, it is important that California employers do not neglect the January 21, 2021 compliance deadline. While many human resource initiatives and compliance programs have been placed on the backburner in the face of COVID-19, it does not appear that California’s sexual harassment training mandate will be one of them.

Whether or not in California, anti-harassment training remains an important tool in the #MeToo era. For assistance in complying with the California requirements or otherwise addressing issues related to training, please contact your Foley attorney to be directed to the appropriate resource.

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