McLeod Witham

Governor Brown Extends Harassment Training Requirements To Include Gender Identity, Gender Expression, And Sexual Orientation

     As many of you know, employers in California that have more than 50 employees are required to provide at least two hours of classroom or “other effective interactive training and education” regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees in California within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position.  In addition, employers that are required to provide harassment training to their supervisory employees must do so at least once every two years.  (Government Code Section 12950.1(a)). 

     Last week, Governor Brown extended these training requirements and – starting January 1, 2018 – employers “shall also provide training inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expressions, and sexual orientation” as a component of the training and education already required pursuant to Government Code Section 12950.1(a).  Similar to the current requirements, harassment training on these subjects must include “practical examples inclusive of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation” and shall be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise in those areas.

     Accordingly, employers should carefully review their harassment training materials to make sure that it complies with California law and includes training on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.  In addition, since an employer’s compliance with Government Code Section 12950.1(a), even as amended, does not insulate the employer from liability for sexual harassment of any current or former employee or applicant, employers need to take additional steps to prevent harassment in the workplace.  Such a strategy would include:  (i) adopting (and communicating) a zero tolerance anti-harassment policy; and (ii) ensuring that all complaints are promptly and fully investigated by maintaining a clear internal process for investigating any complaint of harassment.