The state of California is much more than the most populated state in the country. As of last year, it also ranked as the fifth-biggest economy in the world. It had a gross domestic product of more than $2.7 trillion in 2017, an increase of $127 billion from 2016.
So when California passes a new law that’s related to employment, it’s a pretty big deal. SB 1343 was passed in 2018, and it deals with sexual harassment training requirements. Let’s take a closer look at what SB 1343 might mean for your office.
Sexual harassment training in California
Some states are more friendly to employers, while others tend to favor employees. California definitely falls into the latter group thanks to high union membership rates and a high minimum wage (though we should note that the cost of living is also high there). The passage of SB 1343 further solidifies California’s position as a state that places the rights of workers over the rights of corporations.
Previously, California required limited sexual harassment training, but only for employees in supervisory positions. To a certain point, that made sense: after all, people with power are more likely to abuse that power. A lower-level employee could harass people, but he doesn’t have as much power over their careers as a manager. But even in that example, there are clearly problems which weren’t being addressed.
But now, a California SB1343 training course is required for every employee, at least if your workplace has more than five workers. Non-supervisory employees must take at least an hour of training once every two years. Their first training session must occur no more than six months after their hire date. So you can go through the training after a week or after five months. But either way, it has to get done within six months.
Supervisory employees have their own set of requirements to fulfill, and their minimum is two hours. What’s considered supervisory? That line can get a little murky sometimes, but the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing defines a supervisor as “anyone with authority to hire, fire, assign, transfer, discipline, or reward other employees.”
That’s not all. The state also says someone counts as a supervisor if they have “the authority to effectively recommend (but not necessarily take) these actions if exercising that authority requires the use of independent judgment.”
What training must cover
The law requires the training to cover specific areas. In other words, a boss can’t bring people into a conference room and ask them not to harass anybody. The law is designed to prevent a half-hearted attempt like that. Instead, the training must be comprehensive.
Among other things, the training must define what exactly counts as sexual harassment. It should also provide “practical examples of harassment”. This is important for a couple reasons. Some people fear that anything they say or do could be interpreted as sexual harassment. These fears are generally overblown, and the provided examples in the training should make that clear.
The training can be taught by an instructor who runs the meeting like a classroom, but if there’s no in-person instructor available, all isn’t lost. Employees can also get the training via internet. These are webinars taught by an instructor located somewhere else, or you can take an e-learning course. E-learning is kind of like a “What Should I Major in Quiz” or “What Kind of Pizza Am I Quiz”, but it takes a bit more time and energy.
That said, the sexual harassment training is designed to be as painless as possible while still being useful. California wants to educate people, not force them into compliance.