Don’t Stand So Close to Me: Ten California Sexual Harassment Bills to Watch 5/18/18

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/don-t-stand-so-close-to-me-ten-34086/

Bruce’s Summary: Well if you want to know what is on the mind of California legislators for employers, look no further. This article certainly gives a clear picture of what California employers should expect over the next seven to eighteen months concerning new legislation on sexual harassment. The authors focus on ten key California Sexual Harassment Bills currently pending to help employers understand what they may be facing in months to come.

The authors do a good overview of what employers should expect and therefore be prepared to implement if they haven’t done so yet. Although not every bill may pass, some are going to and HR professionals and smaller organizations who don’t have HR support should be cognizant and preparing ahead of time for proper implementation of the new legal requirements coming.

One example given is while employees today may be personally liable for Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) harassment claims under existing law, Senate Bill 1038 would extend personal liability to employees for FEHA retaliation against a person who filed a complaint or opposed a prohibited practice, including alleged harassment or discrimination.

Another example given is Senate Bill 1300 which would amend FEHA to (1) allow a plaintiff to sue her employer for failure to prevent discrimination and harassment without needing to prove that she actually endured any discrimination or harassment; (2) prohibit a release of FHEA claims in exchange for a raise or bonus, or continued employment; (3) require all employees – regardless of size – to provide harassment prevention training and required times to provide training. In reference to regulatory type training on such subjects as anti-harassment and retaliation training, more positive results were always achieved when the training was live and interactive.

Lastly, Assembly Bill 1870 is given which expands the statute of limitations for an employee to file a DFEH administrative claim from one year to three years.

However, regardless of the number of additional laws that get passed the culture and direction of any size organization starts at the top. As I have said in the past, we all know for HR Professionals and small businesses one of the biggest challenges is not the fact of getting the current mandated legal messages down through the employee ranks but more getting the message to permeate up the executive ladder. It no longer is acceptable for the executive ranks to ignore or not take such allegations seriously. Remember, everyone is watching. “None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor are Calvin Associates consultants engaged to offer legal advice. If there is a need for legal advice, please contact and seek the advice of independent legal counsel.” www.calvin-associates.com

Be Prepared for Calls from the DFEH Regarding Your Anti-Harassment Policies

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/be-prepared-for-calls-from-the-dfeh-61719/

Bruce’s Summary: A new process developed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) was implemented in April 2018. The DFEH now conducts random telephone interviews with employers about their anti-harassment and diversity policies. As the author indicates, this is an outgrowth of the DFEH’s Task Forces on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

The author gives a good overview for employers and HR Professionals of the questions they may receive from the DFEH and how to handle the process. Interview participation is not mandatory but whether or not an employer decides to participate they should prepare their frontline personnel to respond appropriately. Once the interview is conducted it might be very difficult to edit.

The author also shares a refresher on the importance of record keeping when providing different types of mandatory sexual harassment training for those employer’s with over 50 employees. The author further shares their thoughts for those employer’s with less than 50 employees. In today’s litigious climate relating to harassment, the first line of a good defense for employers is having training and policies in place and documented regardless of the organization’s size.

For Employers and HR Professionals, now is the time is to ensure their house is in order for responding to workplace harassment complaints. If there ever was a time to ensure both the “I”s are dotted and the “T”s are crossed in an employer’s training and policies, it’s now.

One note, in my experience, reference to regulatory type training on such subjects as anti-harassment training, more positive results were always achieved when the training was live and interactive.

In addition, employers must ensure that a clear recognition of neutrality of any investigation is paramount to the individuals involved, work environment and organization is to ensure the investigation is prompt, impartial and thorough. One clear signal of neutrality of the investigation, especially within the executive ranks, is the use of an outside neutral investigator. “None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor are Calvin Associates consultants engaged to offer legal advice. If there is a need for legal advice, please contact and seek the advice of independent legal counsel.” www.calvin-associates.com