New Gender Harassment Training Law Takes Effect Amid Uptick in Public Claims

California has expanded its anti-sexual harassment training law to specifically include gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Employers need to ensure their training programs are up to date.

The end of the year is a busy time for HR professionals. There are a slew of new laws set to take effect each January. These sometimes require updating employee policies and handbooks/manuals, and making changes to certain types of workplace training programs, including anti-harassment training of supervisors and employees. This year, California employers need to be mindful of an update that requires sexual harassment training now include information on harassment related to gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

Under California law, employers with 50 or more employees must provide two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors every two years. It is vital for a whole host of reasons to stay current with this training. Not only is it required, it makes good sense and is the first line of defense in warding off claims and ensuring a safe, respectable workplace for all. With this new law, the training should include “information and practical examples … of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation,” and must be “presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise” in these areas. Employers with less than 50 employees should also have its employees undergo the same training since unlawful harassment applies to employers with 5 or more employees.

If employers are using training modules from respected providers with experience in the California market, these will likely include all the required topics. But never assume. Contact your training provider to make sure the program you choose covers this information in sufficient detail to comply with the expanded anti-harassment law.

Sexual harassment claims are front-and-center in the media right now, and more individuals will be emboldened to come forward with allegations of both recent and past conduct that is questionable. These claims are very damaging, both from a financial standpoint (litigation is extremely expensive) and for a company’s reputation. For the first time, we are seeing companies severely damaged, and in some cases ruined, by newly public claims of repeated sexual harassment by top executives.

Employers need to take sexual harassment, both claims and training (required and otherwise) very seriously. If you are unsure if your company’s policies are up to date, consult an experienced labor and employment law attorney.