Are You Required to Provide Sexual Harassment Training?

ArLyne Diamond's Profile

Are you aware that the laws regarding training to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and abuse have changed radically – especially in California?

Do you know that you might have to train your staff – even though you only have a few employees and some part-timers?

As of January of this year (2020) you must provide this training if you have five or more employees – yes 5 or more.  This includes interns, part-time employees and even contractors if they are individuals not working for another company.

True, this is a new law if you are in California and might not be in place in your state – yet – but realize that where California goes in Labor Relations Law the rest of the country follows shortly.  

So better to be safe than sorry.  Remember, it only takes two people to create a bad situation.  

Of course, offering training doesn’t guarantee that you will not be sued – but failing to train can be a factor against you in court.

Training can be in person, or on-line.  It must be done by a qualified person and be interactive.  Our online courses are interactive – but of course, my in-person courses are much more interactive.

The decision as to whether to have in-person or online courses is one you are free to make.  Online courses are far less expensive but don’t allow for a full range of question and answer, role-playing, people dialoguing back and forth, etc.

On the other hand, they do contain all the information necessary for you to meet the government requirements for training – and they are very useful.  Feedback from those who have taken the course has been very positive.

We offer one online course for staff and another for supervisors.  The one for supervisors contains additional information about responsibility and liability.  For example, it includes keeping personnel records, how to write a report, etc.

Both courses have examples of the more subtle forms of harassment – things that the ordinary, untrained person might not think constitute harassment.  Among these is the concept of a hostile work environment.

If you think of it, the word harassment itself is one that is subject to great interpretation.  To harass is to annoy or irritate – so it is a subjective belief by the recipient. In the past, there was “the reasonable person” standard – but over time this has been modified in practice to anyone that is made to feel uncomfortable – so even mild teasing can fall into the category of harassment.

Bullying is another area that now must be stopped – and that includes supervisors or managers that are loud and abrasive.  The bosses I grew up within New York City who would yell at you one-time and praise to the skies the next are no longer allowed.  Emotion – especially the negative kind, must be avoided at all costs.

Discrimination may seem obvious to you – but it too is complicated.  There is Disparate Treatment and Disparate Impact. The first says you can’t treat people differently based on the group in which they belong.  The second contradicts the first and says you can’t treat people the same if it is going to have a different impact on one group. (I don’t write laws – I just offer them to you.)

Seriously though, it really does make sense – here’s an example of Disparate Impact:

You, the boss make a policy that all men must be clean-shaven.  Sounds good. Personally, I prefer clean-shaven men. BUT – what happens when someone’s religion, such as that of the Sikh religion dictates that they not shave?  See Disparate Impact.

This is just a small example of what training is all about – and why it is really important to train your managers and staff even if it wasn’t dictated by the law.