California Expands Harassment Training Requirements and Extends Deadline

California recently approved an extension to the deadline for California employers to comply with the state’s new anti-harassment training mandate. As originally adopted, the initial training deadline was January 1, 2020 — it is now January 1, 2021. In addition, SB 778 , which extended the deadline, clarifies employer obligations concerning the retraining of supervisory employees who received training in 2018.

As discussed in our Annual California Employment Law Update for 2019, the state law on harassment prevention training was significantly expanded last year to:

  • Cover California employers with five or more employees, wherever located (previously the training mandate was imposed only on employers with 50 or more employees);
  • Require that all employees, including non-supervisory, temporary, and seasonal workers, receive training (previous law required only that supervisory personnel be trained);
  • Direct that nonsupervisory employees receive one hour of training and supervisory personnel continue to receive two hours of training, repeated every two years (there are additional timing requirements for temporary and seasonal workers); and
  • Mandate that new hires and employees promoted to supervisory positions receive training within six months of hire or promotion (previous law only required this for supervisory employees and applied just to employers with 50 or more employees).

In addition to delaying the new training requirements for one year, SB 778 also resolves the confusion concerning the deadlines for retraining supervisory employees who received training in 2018. The statute clarifies that employers who trained their supervisory employees in 2018 will have to retrain them in 2020, not 2019.

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What California employers should do now

  • Employers with 50 or more employees must continue to adhere to their training obligations concerning supervisory personnel.
  • Employers with 50 or more employees, as well as smaller employers, should be aware that they now have an additional year to comply with the new training mandates imposed by the 2018 law.
  • Employers should take note of these additional resources:
    • The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) will develop compliant online training programs for both supervisory and nonsupervisory personnel. In the meantime, the DFEH has created a Sexual Harassment and Abusive Conduct Prevention Toolkit, including a sample training that may be presented by a qualified “trainer.” (The term “trainer” is defined in the regulations to include attorneys and human resources professionals with particular experience.) The agency also has posted FAQs on its website.
    • Epstein Becker Green offers both live, in-person training and an online training program called “Halting Harassment” that fully comply with California’s harassment prevention training requirements.

Susan Gross Sholinsky is a member of the firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green. She counsels clients on a variety of matters, in a practical and straightforward manner, with an eye toward reducing the possibility of employment-related claims.

Jennifer L. Nutter is a senior attorney in the employment, labor & workforce management and litigation practices in the Los Angeles office of Epstein Becker Green.

She has a broad background in civil litigation, including general business litigation, legal malpractice, medical practice, wrongful death, unfair competition, and employment. Ms. Nutter now focuses on employment law, representing employers in a wide variety of industries, including communications, construction, entertainment, and finance. 

Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper is an associate in the employment, labor and workforce management practice, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green. Nancy counsels clients on compliance with EEO laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, worker classification issues, and other federal, state, and local statutes governing the workplace.

Eduardo J. Quiroga is a law clerk – admission pending – in the employment, labor & workforce management practice, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green. He will be focusing his practice on employment litigation and wage and hour, trade secret, and employee mobility issues.

Prior to joining Epstein Becker Green, Mr. Quiroga worked as a paralegal in the New York City branch of a property services labor union, where, among other things, he communicated with various government agencies regarding claim dismissals, conducted investigations in connection with arbitration proceedings involving employment disputes, assisted in collective bargaining, and negotiated settlement agreements. He also served as a legal intern at a nonprofit legal organization that works to exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing.

Mr. Quiroga received his Juris Doctor from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law where he was a staff editor of the Moot Court Honor Society. He received Cardozo’s John D. Appel Award for Exemplary Service to the Community and a separate recognition for his commitment to pro bono work. Mr. Quiroga graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations.