What the new extension means for sexual harassment training

Frank S. Clowney III

When the #MeToo movement started sweeping the nation, California was one of the quickest states to respond to the increased exposure of sexual harassment in the workplace. They passed several laws in an attempt to make safer work environments for workers of all ages and genders.

The new training law

One of the most prominent was Senate Bill No. 1343, which would change how harassment training was handled in California companies. From now on, companies that have five or more employees would need to provide two hours of training to their supervised workers, and the workers must take the training again two years later. Previously, this only applied to companies with over 50 workers. In addition, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) would develop their own online training courses that employers and employees could access.

Questions arose

While this seemed like a step in the right direction, many employers were a confused in regards to the deadlines. The bill stated that all employers are required to train their employees by January 1, 2020. Since the bill was passed in late September 2018, they were unsure if they needed to provide training in 2019 for those already trained in 2018 to meet the deadline. In addition, the DFEH’s training materials had still not come out a year after the bill was passed.

The newer training law

After listening to several complaints and questions from employers about the deadlines, the governor approved of Senate Bill No. 778 in August 2019. While it still maintained the same rules towards company sizes and when new recruits and supervised employees should receive their training, they extended the deadline one year later to January 1, 2019. They also clarified that both new nonsupervisory and supervisory employees need the training within 6 months of hiring or assuming a new position.

What does this mean?

The bill clarifies that employers that provided this training in 2019 don’t have to do it again until 2 years have passed, so they don’t have to worry until their time comes in 2021. For California employers that were waiting for the DFEH’s training materials to give to their workers, now they have more time to see how the training materials hold up and if they need to make their own training courses instead.

California workers also need to keep these deadlines in mind as well. If an employer fails to provide this crucial training to workers within the specified time period, then the court may find them liable in the event a worker experiences sexual harassment at work. It is important to discuss the matter with an experienced employment law attorney to determine the best course of action in these uncomfortable scenarios.