Why are there Laws Centered Around Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been a concern for many years. The first recorded case of workplace sexual harassment was in 1974 which guided the way Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue regulations against workplace sexual harassment in 1980. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 then expanded the protections of victims to sue and collect punitive damages as it relates to sexual harassment or discrimination. Although many laws have been in place to protect those who are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, the #MeToo Movement has sparked greater attention & awareness to workplace sexual harassment. This has created an outcry to not only punish those in violation but to seek ways to prevent workplace sexual harassment from happening.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be unwelcome sexual advances, physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature or request of sexual favors. Types of sexual harassment are often referred to as quid por quo sexual harassment or hostile work sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is generally a promise of benefits in the workplace as a means of sexual bribery or coercion. Hostile environment sexual harassment is more subjective and consists generally of often frequent unwanted physical touching, sexual comments, or suggestive material. It is worth noting that a recent poll found that over 30% of people in the United States have claimed to experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Over 50% of reported incidents are from a direct supervisor, and over 20% of reported incidents are from men. These staggering numbers have led to a significant expansion of the recent law in the workplace.

What was the Old California Law that was Replaced?
In January 2005 Governor Jerry Brown enacted AB 1825. This law was dedicated to Harassment Training for supervisors in the workplace. The focus was on general legal compliance and how supervisors should handle workplace harassment issues. The law itself had an on 4 million individuals that needed this supervisor training. This manager based training law gives 2 hours of mandatory training for supervisors every 2 years. Only companies with 50 or more employees needed to comply with this law which alleviated smaller businesses from this training. In August of 2007, the California Fair Employment & Housing Commission issued required content standards and produced training materials and “E-Learning” computer-based programs for the training.

What is the new California Law?
Established in October of 2018, Governor Jerry Brown enacted Senate Bill (SB) 1343. This law then took full effect as of January 1st, 2019. This more in-depth compliance training focuses in on identification, prevention, and intervention. The law will affect around 34 million individuals and 300,000 employers which is a tremendous amount more than the prior bill. The main changes between bills are outlined below:

  • Mandated for companies with 5 or more employees (previously was 50 or more employees).
  • Training is needed for all employees (previously just for supervisors).
  • Supervisor training still is 2 hours every 2 years, but employee training is now 1 hour every 2 years.
  • All employees must be trained within 6 months of hire with the exception of seasonal or temporary employees who must be trained within 30 days of hire.
  • All training must be interactive, time tracked, and records must be kept.
  • Updated DEFH posters including ones on transgender rights must be posted in the workplace.
  • DEFH information sheets must be distributed to each employee.

Are any other States affected, or is this just California?
California, New York, Connecticut, Maine, and Delaware have all re-developed similar laws as outlined above. In light of the growing awareness of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, it is likely more states are soon to follow in implementing similar laws and regulations. At this point, many employers in other states have begun implementing some form of sexual harassment prevention guidelines in order to stay ahead of a possible problem occurring.

What are the Solutions and Timelines?
In California, all businesses must roll out this training and have current employees complete it by January 1st, 2020. This does not, however, mean that most employers can wait until the last day to roll out training since all employees hired after January 1st, 2019 must go through training within 6 months of hire. Furthermore, employers that hire temporary or seasonal employees still must comply with this law within 30 days of hiring such an employee after January 1st, 2019. This really means that all businesses should have a plan in place now for their training.

There are many available solutions with an assortment of correlated costs. These solutions can include:

  • Web-based via a Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Webinar based training
  • Recorded workshop training
  • In-person training

The key is finding training that is an approved training based on being administered by someone authorized to do such training; and that the training is interactive, time tracked and records kept. Given the wide range of options, pricing, and administration types, it can be best to reach out to a Compliance Broker to review the options best for a particular business. To learn more about sexual harassment training and learn about different administration options, please visit EVCO Insurance to connect with an expert broker.