Sexual harassment can happen to anyone in the workplace. That doesn’t mean, however, that nothing can be done to prevent it from happening in the first place.
In California, there are state laws that mandate employers to nip it in the bud before the toxic culture even starts. Continue reading to learn more about the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
What can employers do?
The first step in preventing sexual harassment from happening in the lawyers is for employers to comply with the mandated requirements. Based on the Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers in California that have five or more employees must do the following:
Ensure the workplace is a safe place free of sexual harassment;
Implement rules and regulations in the workplace that prevent sexual harassment;
Provide sexual harassment training every two years; and
Distribute an information sheet about sexual harassment in the workplace to employees.
The Fair Employment and Housing act also stipulates that employers and their supervisors can’t commit, allow, abet, compel, aid, and incite sexual harassment in the workplace.
Employers are also encouraged to actively monitor employee relations and take all complaints seriously.
Creating a policy
To create a sexual harassment-free workplace, employers must establish ground rules. A policy that outlines regulations and procedures must be created and observed at all times.
Creating a sexual harassment policy isn’t as easy as counting one-two-three. First, it should list all of the protected categories stated by the DFEH. Second, it should explicitly state that any acts of sexual harassment are prohibited in the workplace. Supervisors and managers are not exempt from this.
Third, there should be a clear process in receiving sexual harassment complaints where victims can go straight to the relevant authorities. Fourth, it should reassure victims that their complaints will be investigated fairly and thoroughly. Fifth, the entire policy should be in writing and accessible to everyone in the workplace.
Required trainings in the workplace
A clear-cut policy about sexual harassment isn’t enough. Employers are also required by the DFEH to host regular two-hour trainings to supervisors and managers and one-hour trainings to regular employees. These trainings should cover sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention, with refresher courses done every two years.
Every employee should undergo this training within six months after their starting date. Meanwhile, contractual employees must take the training within 30 calendar days or 100 hours rendered.
Posters and employee handouts
Another thing employers must do is to diseminate information. As such, they’re required to display the latest version of the “California Law Prohibits Workplace Discrimination and Harassment” in different parts of the workplace.
In addition to the posters, employers must also distribute information sheets about sexual harassment. The following details should be included:
Sexual harassment as defined by state and federal law;
The scope of its illegality;
Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace;
The employer’s complaint process;
Legal options in case of sexual harassment; and
How to get in touch with the DFEH or EEOC.
Aside from distribution of hard copies, information sheets can also be e-mailed to employees, posted on the Intranet if applicable, and discussed at length during new-hire orientations.
Are there exceptions that make employers liable for a harasser’s act?
No. If your harasser claims that they didn’t receive training or informative materials about sexual harassment in the workplace, they are still fully liable for their wrongdoing. In such cases, the employers are also not considered liable for failure to do so.
And even if your harasser did comply with workplace regulations and training, that doesn’t make them exempt from the repercussions.
Strengthening sexual harassment laws in California
Last year, California also took the time reinforce existing sexual harassment laws. For instance, Assembly Bill 9 now allows victims to file sexual harassment complaints within a three-year period instead of a one-year window.
And in light of the MeToo movement, more amendments and new laws are expected to further bolster protections against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Everyone deserves to pursue their careers with respect and dignity, and in a workplace that is safe and motivating. Hogue & Belong’s attorneys at law can help you make sure of that.
If you feel like your employer has missed a step in their obligations to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, do your part. Inform the relevant authorities, read more about sexual harassment laws, or connect with top sexual harassment lawyers in California.