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What SB 778 California Means for Business Owners: Important Information

Senate Bill or SB 778 California is a new law (Government Code Section 12950.1) introduced in September 2018 and set a specific deadline for companies with five or more employees in California to provide sexual harassment training for supervisors and at least one hour of training to all nonsupervisory employees. The state of California instituted this law to help educate employees about what is acceptable in the workplace and help California employers stem the rising tide of sexual harassment complaints. This blog post will cover what SB 778 means, how it affects business owners, and how you can comply with the new law.

If you need to get your employees compliant before the deadline, try our harassment training for California businesses course. We can get your entire workforce tracked and certified almost instantly.

What is SB 778 California? 

First, a bit of history.

In 2005, the California Legislature signed into law Assembly Bill 1825 that said all California companies with 50 or more employees had to provide their managers and supervisors sexual harassment training and education.

Over a decade later, in 2013, the California Legislature passed SB 1343, which changed the requirement to companies with five or more employees to ensure that smaller businesses were also training their employees on sexual harassment prevention. SB 1343 also dictated that all employees, not just supervisors, were required to have this training every two years.

SB 778 amended SB 1343 to require that all personnel affected by SB 1343 be trained by January 1, 2020, and must be retrained every two years after that as refresher training. On August 30, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation extending the California deadline for initial compliance to January 1, 2021. 

SB 1343 and SB 778 set forth requirements for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to develop and make available online training courses that meet both the one-hour and two-hour training requirements. The governor's 2019 extension gave the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) the time needed to complete that requirement.

How Does SB 778 Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Affect Business Owners?

SB 778 (and its predecessors) requires any California business with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to their employees. Companies must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual training and education to all nonsupervisory employees within six months of the date of hire or promotion. Employees must refresh the training every two years thereafter. 

Additionally, employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training and education to temporary or other employees who are seasonal workers within 30 calendar days of hire or within 100 hours worked, whichever is first, if they will work less than six months. If this temporary is contractor provided by a staffing agency, the agency must give the training. 

The Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

So to recap, all California employers with five or more employees (regardless of where they live and work)must provide their employees with sexual harassment prevention training by January 1, 2021, and employers need to be retrained every two years thereafter.

The training requirements for providing and who needs sexual harassment prevention training are clearly laid out, but it does change depending on job role and type of employee. 

Any employee who supervises another employee must complete at least two hours of harassment prevention training and education. New supervisory employees must complete two hours of training within six months of promotion to be compliant. Nonsupervisory employees require just one hour of sexual harassment prevention training, but they must complete it inside six months of hire. 

Seasonal temporary employees are not exempt from this mandate. This category applies to anyone hired to work for fewer than six months. Employers must provide one hour of training within 30 days of their hire date or within 100 hours worked, unless the temporary employee is engaged through a staffing agency. In which case, the staffing agency is responsible for providing training to these workers. 

Independent contractors, unpaid interns, or volunteers are not required to complete training per the sexual harassment prevention mandate; however, they are used to calculate the minimum threshold for employees. For example, if you have two employees and four unpaid interns, your company is required, by law, to provide training for your two paid employees.

There are several options for how your business can provide training and education regarding sexual harassment prevention.  Training may be conducted in a traditional classroom setting with an in-person trainer, through e-learning, or even a webinar, but it must be taught in an "effective, interactive" environment and can not be text only (i.e., worksheets). The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) offers free sexual harassment training courses for California businesses via its website to satisfy the new legal requirements (but we wouldn't recommend it).

You can schedule training for employees as a group or individually, but all e-learning or online training must be completed as an individual and cannot be completed as a group. Sexual harassment training can be completed all at once or broken into shorter segments as long as it meets the minimum requirement for the total amount of time.

Employers must provide the training during paid working hours, and all employees are to be paid for their training time. You cannot use an employee's personal time such as break or lunchtimes for this training. Employers are also liable for any expenses that may arise from the training, including mileage if the training is held out of the office.

Sexual harassment training is required once every two years for employees. Employees promoted to supervisory positions must complete their additional hours within six months of promotion. If an employee is hired and has documented completion of a previous course within the last two years, that employee does not need to be retrained or refresher training until their current documentation has expired.

Speaking of documentation, California employers must maintain a written harassment and discrimination prevention policy and provide a copy to each new hire. If any changes are made to this policy, all employees must receive a copy. Per SB 778, employers must also post all required notices from the DEFH and provide them with their Sexual Harassment Information Sheet. These precautions are taken to avoid a hostile work environment in CA.

Each employer must maintain documentation of the training provided to their employees to prove compliance. Supporting documentation that shows the date of training, type of training, names of the attendee and the trainer, and a copy of all the certificates of completion is required for a minimum of two years from the date of the sexual harassment training. 

What happens if I don't comply with the training and education laws?

The penalty for non-compliance is pretty moderate. Under SB 778, the DFEH may seek a court order requiring the employer to comply with the requirements. That said, the high cost of workplace harassment both financially and culturally makes it worthwhile to use these tools to help eliminate sexual harassment. By educating employees about what is a sexual harassment violation in California can help mitigate these. Take a look at our free compliance audit checklist to make sure your business is safe from any audits. 
 
While compliance may feel somewhat time-consuming and confusing, but it is mandatory and the process isn't difficult, and, in the grand scheme of things, one or two hours of training is minimal. Set a schedule, get your employees trained, and make sure to keep close track of your documentation, and you will easily meet the requirements for this regulation. 

SB 778 and the other labor laws it supports may seem complicated. Still, compliance is simple with the right tools and resources, and the benefits to sexual harassment prevention training far outweigh the difficulties. If you have never given sexual harassment training before or need help doing so now that it's required by law - don't worry! EasyLlama's online compliance training has got you covered to comply with the bill from start to finish.