Employers need to review their compliance with California’s sexual harassment training requirements on a periodic basis.  When doing so, it is a good time to update policies and remind employees about the company’s policies on a routine basis – not just when a complaint is made.  This Friday’s Five provides reminders about sexual harassment training and dealing with complaints in the workplace:

1.      Employers with 50 or more employees must provide sexual harassment training to all supervisors every two years.

Employers with 50 or more employees must provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees who are employed as of July 1, 2005, and to all new supervisory employees within six months of assuming a supervisory position.  From, all covered employers must provide sexual harassment training and education to each supervisory employee once every two years.  In 2015, California requires that a portion of the training also address “abusive conduct.”

2.      It is recommended that employers provide training to all employees.

All employees should be training about the company’s anti-harassment policy and seriousness of violations of the sexual harassment policy.  Rank and file employees should be encouraged to report any harassment or inappropriate conduct that they see occur in the workplace even though it may not be directed at them.  Encourage employees to help other employees to speak up and make the company aware of inappropriate conduct so that the company can take effective measures to stop the conduct.

3.      Employers should have a compliant policy and complaint procedure.

All employers should have an anti-harassment policy of their own developed and distributed to all employees.  In addition, employers are required to distribute the pamphlet, Sexual Harassment Is Forbidden by Law (DFEH-185), to all employees.  Employers should also routinely discuss the sexual harassment policy with employees at meetings and remind them of the complaint procedures and document these additional steps.  This additional training will show that the company is serious about preventing harassment and took affirmative steps to protect its employees.

4.      Investigate all complaints.

Employers are liable for harassment when it knows or should have known that harassment has occurred.  Therefore, employers should take immediate and appropriate action when they become aware of any potential harassment taking place in their workplace.  An employer must take effective action to stop any further harassment and to minimize any effects of the harassment. The investigation should fully inform complainant of his/her rights.  In addition, the investigation must be immediate, thorough, objective and complete.  All witnesses and anyone with information on the matter should be interviewed.  A final determination must be made and the results communicated to the complainant, to the alleged harasser, and, as appropriate, to all others who have a need to know.

If the investigation determines that harassment occurred, the company must take prompt and effective remedial action.  These steps would include taking appropriate action against the harasser, and keep the complainant informed of these steps.  In addition, the employer must take steps to prevent further harassment.

5.      Protect employees who complain against retaliation.

Employers must take steps to prevent retaliation against any employee who complains about harassment.  This even applies if the employer determines that the complaint was unfounded, the fact that a complaint was made is a protected activity.  Employers should remind the complainant of the anti-retaliation policy and have the employee report any perceived retaliation to the appropriate person in the company.  In addition, the employer should remind the person against who the complaint was made that there cannot be any retaliation against the complainant.  The employer may consider separating the two people involved in the situation to avoid any retaliation claims.