If you do business in California, having a sexual harassment policy isn’t just best practice—come next month, it will be a legal requirement.
Effective April 1, new amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) will modify the state’s already stringent anti-harassment rules. The changes will apply to businesses with five or more full or part-time employees.
The amendments make it mandatory for employers to have a written harassment policy that includes a full list of FEHA protected categories. The policy document will have to also establish a complaints process, including a mechanism for employees to report violations to someone other than their immediate supervisor.
An electronic or hard copy of the policy, along with the already mandatory DFEH-185 and an acknowledgement form, must then be distributed to workers. Employers will have to make a translated version available if 10 percent or more employees speak a language other than English.
Per existing law, California employers with 50 or more employees have to enroll supervisors in anti-harassment training once every two years. The amendments bolster this requirement by establishing new rules for electronic programs. Starting next month, anti-harassment webinars must include an interactive element where participants can readily submit questions. Webinar recordings, including employees questions, must be kept for at least two years.
The new restrictions on electronic training suggest that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has a preference for in-person programs.
California has some of the toughest anti-harassment requirements in the nation, so most employers likely have a written harassment policy already. Those without one should take action immediately—and consult employment counsel to ensure that any new policy is FEHA complaint. If a third-party vendor is used to administer anti-harassment training, employers should be certain they are equipped to handle the state’s new recordkeeping requirements.