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John Winer spoke to LA Progressive on the looming deadline to train workers about sexual harassment

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Deadline Looming to Train Workers About Sexual Harassment

Acritical deadline is sneaking up on California employers that requires workers to take sexual harassment prevention training before the end of the year. While business owners have a lot on their minds with the holidays approaching and the pandemic raging, it’s important to ensure your workforce is abiding by state law or you could face serious financial consequences.

The state legislature expanded anti-harassment training requirements with the passage of SB 1343. Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in 2018 and current Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 788 which gave employers a one-year extension due to Covid-19. Now the January 1, 2021 deadline is right around the corner.

California employers with five or more employees must offer sexual harassment training and education to comply with the law. Employees are required to take a one-hour online course and supervisors must complete two hours of training. If a company has 50 or more employees, they’re required to take a two-hour training course every two years. This includes full-time, part-time, independent contractors, volunteers, managers, and executives. New supervisors must take the course within six months of assuming a supervisor role. The state offers courses in both English and Spanish.

Unwanted, hostile, and harassing behavior is severely damaging to both the employee and the business where the harassment is allowed to occur.

The mandated training and education must provide information and practical guidance about federal and state statutory provisions that involves how to identify and prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace. The training also covers how to prevent harassment and discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

Unwanted, hostile, and harassing behavior is severely damaging to both the employee and the business where the harassment is allowed to occur. The impact of sexual harassment on an individual is devastating. It can cause emotional, psychological, and economic pain that can last a lifetime.

Sexual harassment persists in nearly every industry in our economy regardless of whether it’s a male-dominated or female-dominated profession. It’s pervasive and damaging regardless of the job setting or whether the workers are low-wage or high-wage earners. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are driven by the imbalances of power. Men hold more positions of power in most industries but women can perpetrate sexual harassment as well. Both men and women can be targets for sexual harassment but data shows people of color, especially women are more likely to experience harassment on the job.

Working from home does not prevent sexual harassment. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 40% of workers surveyed reported some form of digital harassment which includes sharing sexually explicit photos without consent, the use of inappropriate emojis and messages, and using sexual or gender-based derogatory terms to describe the victim online.

As a California employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your organization is compliant with anti-harassment training. You have a legal obligation to provide a safe and secure workplace, even if your staff is working remotely from home. If sexual harassment and retaliation occur under your watch and it’s exposed that your staff was not properly trained as directed by state law, you can be held financially liable in civil court.

California now joins five other states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine and, New York) that require employers to provide sexual harassment training regardless of status or seniority.

There’s no federal law that requires businesses to provide its workers with sexual harassment training but those who have prevention policies in place are in a stronger position if an employee files a sexual harassment lawsuit. There are federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibit workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.

It’s also important to keep your employee handbook up-to-date with the company’s current guidelines on anti-harassment guidelines and make sure your employees all have access to the handbook.

Victims of workplace sexual harassment can exhibit a decrease in productivity, morale, and job effectiveness resulting in economic loss to a business. Ignoring complaints or firing the harasser is not an effective way to combat systemic sexual harassment.

By making anti-harassment training mandatory for all businesses we can instill meaningful change in workplace culture and create a corporate structure that fosters a more supportive and inclusive environment for all workers.

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