New Law Related to California Sexual Harassment Training

california sexual harassment training deadlineCalifornia sexual harassment training laws, deadline extended. If you work for a company that has not trained its employees on the laws regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, the likelihood of such harassment occurring is naturally higher. That is expressly why California sexual harassment training law requires employers to provide this important information to all employees. Recent changes to the law impact the expectations for this training. If you have concerns about sexual harassment, a local labor and employment attorney may be able to help. 

Importance of Effective Training

Recent allegations of sexual harassment plague the headlines. The failure to provide effective training can lead to employee missteps in the form of improper “jokes,” or even outright threats, intimidations, and written, verbal, or physical assaults. Any of these can make the workplace feel unsafe for employees, and are examples of behaviors that are untenable under California law.  While the perpetrator of such actions can be held liable for such actions, employers who fail to address them in a proper and timely fashion are also accountable by law.

New California Sexual Harassment Training Law Deadline

Prior legislation required employers with five or more employees to arrange for a sexual harassment training by 2020.  SB 778, which was signed into law in August 2019, extends that deadline to 2021.

California Harassment Training Requirements

The requirements for California sexual harassment training remain the same — two hours of education on the issues for all supervisors within six months of gaining such a position, at least once every two years. The training must speak to issues of abusive conduct according to California law.

Seasonal Employees

Temporary or seasonal workers also must undergo training. This must occur within 30 days or 100 hours of work, whichever comes first, if the worker has been hired to a position that will last six months or less. 

Resources

There is no excuse for employers who claim they do not know who to go to for California sexual harassment training materials. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has been tasked with creating online materials that employers may use. These materials must have an interactive section, necessitating participant interactions wherein they answer questions periodically in order for the program to continue running. When employees have questions throughout the course, the human resources department of the employer is required to address them.  [Read more…]

New Laws Boost  Women in California Workplaces

women in californiaWomen in California in the workplace have been given greater protections and opportunities in 2019 by the California legislature. 2019 brings with it a number of new laws that will impact California businesses and their employees. In particular, female workers have been given greater protections and opportunities by the California legislature. As a worker, if you find that your boss is not willing to comply with the new regulations, getting an experienced and effective labor lawyer on your side can make a significant difference.

Women Take the Lead

The Governor signed SB 826, requiring all companies that are publicly traded in California to include women on their boards. The bill specifies that such companies must have at least one female on their boards by the close of 2019, and those with five members are required to have two women by the time 2021 wraps up. Half of directors on six-person boards must be female by that deadline.

Harassment Legislation – Women in California

Governor Brown signed SB 1343 into law, requiring that any business with five or more employees provide training related to sexual harassment – what it is, how to prevent it, and how to report it. Such training must occur before the end of 2019, and is required every couple of years from then on. This will impact a number of small businesses, since mandatory training was previously required only for businesses employing at least 50 workers. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has been directed to created necessary training materials which can be loaned out for training sessions. Employers may choose a number of ways to deliver the training:

  • In small groups;
  • By department;
  • Company-wide;
  • In another format that makes sense.

Additionally, AB1870 extends the time limit victims have to file a charge with DFEH to three years, a substantial increase over the previous limit of one year.  This applies to any harassment related to prohibited conduct against protected classes based on gender, race, culture, age, sexual orientation, or religion.

Confidentiality Restrictions

SB 820 shuts down provisions for confidentiality that have previously been included in settlements in sexual harassment or sexual discrimination cases.  Although discrimination and harassment are not restricted to one gender, women experience the lion’s share of such behavior, and will be the biggest benefactors of the new law. However, it is not retroactive, so only those cases that reach a settlement starting in January of 2019 are required to comply with the new law.

Women in California – Accommodating New Mothers

Another piece of legislation that will impact many women in California on the job is AB 1976.  This law, which aligns with federal regulations, requires businesses to provide an appropriate area that is not a bathroom in which lactating women can be accommodated.   [Read more…]

Workplace Sexual Harassment Retaliation

workplace sexual harassmentWorkplace sexual harassment. When the vice-principal of one California middle school objected to her principal’s nickname for her (Double D), as well as his comments about the physique and desirability of colleagues, it did not go well for her. If you can relate to institutional sexism in your place of work, you may benefit from the advice of a local employment attorney.

A History of Workplace Sexual Harassment Problems

Principal Pinto had a reputation as a misogynist who overtly disrespected female teachers and staff on a regular basis. The evidence of this lies in the 15 workplace sexual harassment grievances filed against him within one school year. Included in the complaints were these abhorrent incidents:

  • He casually talked about female employees’ breasts;
  • He stated that when one employee was making fish, the odor must have been coming from his vice-principal’s genitals.

Nonetheless, after the complaints were documented with the district, no protections were offered to the complainants. Instead, they faced additional hostility. When Pinto’s vice-principal either excused herself from meetings or broke into tears in reaction to his insults, Pinto’s response was to tell her that she had a choice – either “deal with it or resign.” She chose to deal with it.

The Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Ultimately, a lawsuit was filed citing the following complaints:

  • Sexual harassment;
  • Hostile work environment;
  • Retaliation.

Specifically, the suit alleges that Pinto held sexist opinions and that he believed women should acquiesce to the will of men. Only teachers and staff who were willing to embrace this subservient stance were able to avoid the wrath of Pinto. Others, who were particularly successful or assertive were targeted relentlessly. When Pinto became aware of the complaints against him by his vice-principal, he responded by assigning her less desirable duties and relieving her of responsibilities to lead professional development classes and to evaluate teachers. Another teacher who had experienced problems with the principal and complained also suffered retaliation. After preparing throughout the summer for a California Cadet Corps course, she found the class cancelled by Pinto on orientation day. Eventually, both women were forced to quit altogether.

Now, the district may be liable for punitive damages, compensatory damages, lost wages, lost benefits, emotional distress, and medical expenses associated with the experience.

Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. It may take the form of inappropriate verbal comments and jokes, leering or sexually suggestive gestures, pictures and cartoons, unwelcome physical contact, or the swapping of employment opportunities for sexual favors. When any of these behaviors are shunned or reported and the harasser becomes threatening or retaliates in any way, it is against the law. [Read more…]

Employers: Prevent a Sexual Harassment Case

sexual harassment complaintAs an employer, are you liable if one of your employees is accused of sexual harassment? Although every case is different, there are things you can do to provide an affirmative defense in the event a lawsuit comes your way. Beyond that, having an experienced employment law attorney on your side is a must.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

The first thing every employer needs to do is ensure that adequate and appropriate training is provided. In California, state law AB1825 mandates that employers with 50 or more employees provide training for supervisors. That training must occur every two years.

Who Must Experience Sexual Harassment Prevention Training?

Although everyone can benefit from training, supervisors must be trained. That means anyone who has the authority to reward or discipline other employees or deal with grievances, even if the official job title is not supervisor.

What Must Sexual Harassment Training Embody?

The training itself may be delivered on-line, if linked to a trainer who is available to answer employee questions within two days. Another option is to have information delivered by an instructor in a classroom, or in a large format like a seminar, if the trainer follows the regulations laid out by law and uses best instructional practices. There are specific requirements as to who may be a trainer:

  • Attorneys who practice employment law, or;
  • Professors with a post graduate degree or teaching credential with experience in employment law, or;
  • Human resource personnel with at least two years experience designing materials or delivering trainings, dealing with such complaints in a workplace, investigating such complaints, or advising employers or employees in such matters,

The training must encompass information about state and federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment, in addition to remedies for victims of such activity.  There must also be practical case studies of sexual harassment, discrimination, and employee retaliation, and information about how to prevent each.

In the Event of a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

What if an employee brings a sexual harassment lawsuit? Having complied with the training requirements does not necessarily abdicate the employer of responsibility, but it is a first, minimum step. Other steps employers should take:

  • Have a printed policy defining sexual harassment and company policy as to consequences for such behavior. Discuss it with new employees, and review it on occasion with all employees.
  • Provide training to workers, as well as supervisors.
  • Establish a clear grievance procedure and methods of dealing with complaints. Then keep the information confidential.
  • Investigate all complaints quickly and effectively, and document everything related to the complaints.
  • Protect the victim from the moment the complaint is filed, and correct the issue expeditiously.  Then ensure that no form of retaliation ensues.

[Read more…]

Collecting Attorney Fees in EEOC Discrimination Case

EEOC Discrimination CaseNew Supreme Court ruling is a boon to employers hoping to collect attorney’s fees in an EEOC discrimination case. If your company is dealing with an EEOC complaint, you will most likely find the Supreme Court’s recent decision in CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to be welcome news. The case involved a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which held that a defendant in a Title VII case (such as an employer) is only entitled to payment for its attorney’s fees if it prevails in court after a “ruling on the merits.” The Supreme Court overturned this decision, and held that it is possible for a defendant to prevail and receive compensation for attorney’s fees, even without a ruling on the merits.

EEOC Discrimination Case Background

CRST’s EEOC discrimination case legal battle (which has lasted for over a decade) began when an employee named Monika Starke filed a complaint with the EEOC in 2005. She alleged that, over the course of her training as a truck driver, she was sexually harassed by two of her trainers. CRST denied the allegations. When the EEOC investigated, it discovered that four other employees had filed complaints. The EEOC ultimately found that there was reasonable cause to believe that an entire class of employees had been subjected to sexual harassment, and filed a lawsuit against CRST under Title VII on behalf of the aggrieved employees.

The EEOC eventually named more than 250 female employees of CRST as victims of sexual harassment. At trial, the District Court found that the EEOC had not satisfied its presuit requirements, and barred the EEOC from seeking relief for any of the employees. When CRST requested compensation for its EEOC discrimination case legal fees, the District Court approved the motion, and awarded CRST over $4 million in attorney’s fees.

An appeal, the Eighth Circuit found that CRST should not receive compensation for attorney’s fees. It reasoned that, due to precedent, only “prevailing” parties can receive compensation for attorney’s fees, and a party can only prevail if there has been a judicial determination of the plaintiff’s case on the merits. Because some of the complaints were thrown out due to the EEOC’s handling of the presuit requirements, the Court found that there had not been a ruling on the merits. According to the Court, there is a distinction between a ruling based on the elements of a claim (which would constitute a determination on the merits), and a ruling based on prerequisites to filing suit.

The Supreme Court disagreed, and held that there should be no requirement that a case be resolved “on the merits” in order for the defendant to be awarded attorney’s fees. According to the Court’s ruling, common sense dictates that a defendant has prevailed whenever a plaintiff’s claim has been rejected. The Court vacated the Eighth Circuit’s ruling, remanded the case for further proceedings, and urged the lower courts to expedite the resolution because the dispute has already taken so much time. [Read more…]

Sexual Harassment In The Workplace – Quid Pro Quo vs Hostile Work Environment

sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual harassmentWhen it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, there are many people who can easily give examples of it, but know very little about sexual harassment law itself. An important, basic fact about sexual harassment law which very few people understand is that there are two different categories of sexual harassment cases: quid pro quo sexual harassment, and harassment that takes the form of a hostile work environment. Both of these types of harassment are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and by the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA).

Quid Pro Quo

The term “quid pro quo” means “something for something” in Latin. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when someone tries to obtain sexual favors from a coworker by abusing their workplace authority. This can be done with the offer of something positive (for example, “If you sleep with me, I’ll give you a raise”), or with the threat of something negative (for example, “If you don’t sleep with me, I’ll fire you.”)

“Sexual favors” does not necessarily have to mean sexual intercourse – or any kind of physical sex act, for that matter. Offering someone a promotion if they’ll talk dirty to you would be a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Telling a subordinate employee that you’ll cut their benefits if they don’t go on a date with you is also an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment, even though you weren’t specifically requesting sex from the employee.

If an employee is subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment, s/he will not be prevented from filing a claim on the basis of whether or not s/he gave in to the harassment.

Hostile Work Environment

Sexual harassment that takes the form of a hostile work environment does not necessarily involve threats or propositions. A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace, and this conduct is severe and pervasive enough that it unreasonably interferes with the individual’s work performance, or it creates an abusive or offensive working environment.

This conduct can take many forms, including:

  • Sexual jokes, questions and/or comments
  • Displaying inappropriately sexual images (such as pornography)
  • Lewd behavior and/or gestures
  • Frequent, inappropriate physical contact
  • Repeated requests for dates
  • Physical interference with an employee’s movement

The Importance of Proper Legal Advice

If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, an employment discrimination attorney will be able to answer your questions, and help you determine your best course of action. Likewise, if you are an employer, and you have concerns about sexual harassment in your workplace (or you have concerns about your sexual harassment policy), speaking to an attorney may help you avoid litigation, and better serve your employees.

The employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. have considerable experience in sexual harassment cases. You can call or email today to schedule a consultation.

Disclaimer

The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.