The laws prohibiting harassment grew out of laws prohibiting discrimination, as harassment is considered a form of unlawful discrimination. Both are tied to the same protected classifications.
The laws against harassment in California apply to all employers with one or more employees (unlike law's against discrimination and retaliation, which apply to employers with five or more employees) and employers may be personally held liable for unlawful harassment.
Harassment laws apply not only to employees and applicants, but independent contractors, vendors, patients and unpaid interns. Likewise, employees are protected from unlawful harassment by independent contractors, patients and vendors.
An employer may be held liable for harassment committed by managers, coworkers and nonemployees if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
In order for employers of 5 or more employees to comply with training obligations, The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing provides free online training courses on preventing sexual harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace.
The department has provided training for both supervisory (2-hour) and nonsupervisory (1-hour) positions.
Steps to Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention Compliance Guide – a comprehensive resource developed by CDA Practice Support that outlines the steps for developing a policy, compliance with posting, notice and distribution requirements, and employee training.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing provides the following resources for California employers:
Harassment Prevention Guide for California Employers
Maybe. It is each current employer’s obligation to comply with the regulations. The burden of establishing that prior training was legally compliant remains with each current employer. Employers should obtain a copy of the current certificate from the employee of prior training for recordkeeping. The employee should also be provided – and be required to read and acknowledge receipt of – the practices anti-harassment policy within six months of assuming a position with the practice. If the employer cannot establish that the prior training was compliant, or employee cannot produce a current certificate, the employee will need to be trained. Once proof of training is established, the employee should be placed on a training schedule two years from the date of last training.
Yes. Employers must pay employees for the time-spent training. If the training occurs at another location, after work hours, employees should track their hours and employers should comply with overtime regulations, should overtime occur. In addition, employers must bear the cost of the training itself.
As a best practice, a practice owner/employer with five or more employees, who have positioned themselves as an employee of their corporation should attend the two-hour supervisory training.
Even though independent contractors are included in the number of employees that would subject an employer to new training requirements, an employer is not required to provide training to independent contractors as the law specifically refers to “supervisory employees” and “nonsupervisory employees”. This does assume that your independent contractors are properly classified.
Michelle Corbo, PHR, PHRca