Harassment prevention training: More than a compliance box to ‘check off’

Recently enacted laws require employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training, including a law that many California dentists will need to comply with by January 2020, as CDA previously reported. But while important, these laws are only a small part of the harassment prevention puzzle.

Recognizing workplace conflict — and taking steps to reduce it — is an important piece of the puzzle.

Employees sometimes use the term “harassment” to describe an experience they consider rude, unfair or inappropriate. But even the most considerate person can put their foot in their mouth or share an ill-advised joke, says Michelle Corbo, employment practices analyst at CDA Practice Support.

“The question an employer should ask when determining if the conduct could potentially be unlawful is whether the conduct is based on a legally protected characteristic,” Corbo says.

Protected characteristics are those that the federal and state governments have decided should not influence or factor into workplace actions or decisions. Conduct can still be a workplace problem even if it does not meet the legal definition of harassment; it just may not be unlawful.

Employers are encouraged to have policies in place that define appropriate workplace conduct and to offer compliance training that will reinforce basic people skills that foster better communication, increased respect, sensitivity and inclusion for a more positive workplace. These recommended steps are in addition to any regulations that employers must comply with.

What the regulations require

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing released amendments to several regulations that took effect in April 2016. The result is that employers must now implement steps to comply with regulations against harassment and discrimination. In short, what was once considered a best practice is now a mandate.

In addition to the new employee training requirement that went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, and must be satisfied by Jan. 1, 2020, employers of five or more employees are required to develop a written policy, distribute and inform new and existing staff of policies and obtain a written acknowledgement that employees received copies of and understood these policies.

(For more details on the new required sexual harassment prevention training requirements, read the CDA article that was published in January.)

Regulations also require that employers distribute to all employees and new hires a copy of a brochure produced by the DFEH and to post the DFEH poster DFEH-EO7P-ENG (formerly DFEH 162) “California Law Prohibits Workplace Discrimination and Harassment.” This poster is contained in CDA’s 2019-20 Required Poster Set.  

CDA Practice Support’s resource “Steps to Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention Guide” (login required) can help members meet these specific compliance obligations. Also, the DFEH’s “Workplace Harassment Prevention Guide for California Employers” provides recommended employer practices to prevent and address all forms of workplace harassment, including harassment based on sex.

Finding and hiring a trainer, meeting training compliance

California regulations on sexual harassment training are very specific about who can provide the training and require that the training is effective and interactive.

A qualified trainer is defined as an individual who is a licensed attorney, a human resources professional or a college-level professor who has specific experience and expertise in the areas of employment law and the prevention of unlawful harassment and discrimination.

The training method can be provided in a classroom or through e-learning or webinars. Employers seeking trainers can choose from several options in the marketplace, from large law firms to employee development and training companies.

Before selecting a training vendor, employers should do all of the following:

  • Review the company’s website to see how the training is presented for the best possible employee participation.
  • If the training is in-classroom, inquire if it is off-the-shelf training or customized to include experiences that may occur in a dental practice.
  • Confirm that the content meets the California legal requirements.
  • Confirm that the training is presented by a qualified trainer and that the material is presented in an interactive and engaging way.

Because quality and delivery can vary, some companies will grant a preview of the material, particularly if the material is online via e-learning or webinar. “If in doubt, ask,” Corbo says. “

Finding a good training provider is a long-term commitment. Regulations require training of current employees every two years from initial training, training of new or newly promoted employees and training of temporary employees. By taking the time to find and provide quality training, the employer shows they take compliance and employee well-being seriously.

Supervisory and nonsupervisory employees can take a sexual harassment prevention training course that meets the requirements of the new law this May at CDA Presents Anaheim.

“Put your best foot forward with compliance,” Corbo says. “It’s easy to check off a compliance box, but providing more than the minimum requirements of harassment prevention training can greatly improve the workplace environment and, in turn, possibly reduce employer liabilities.”

CDA Practice Support resources cited in this article are available at cda.org/practicesupport. Find the new required DFEH poster in CDA’s 2019-20 Required Poster Set mailing in April to all practice owners.

Related Items

Deadline ahead to provide new sexual harassment prevention training to employees
Register for training course offered this May at CDA Presents
A state law that took effect early this year requires that employers with five or more employees provide qualified sexual harassment prevention training no later than Jan. 1, 2020. Practice owners can achieve this new training requirement by registering their dental teams for one or two courses offered this May at CDA Presents in Anaheim.

Then-Gov. Jerry Brown last September signed a bill requiring California employers of five or more employees to provide expanded training on sexual harassment prevention to all of their employees by Jan. 1, 2020. Practically speaking, this means employers will need to complete the mandatory one- or two-hour trainings for employees in 2019 to be compliant by the January 2020 deadline.