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For more than a decade prior to 2019, California law only obligated relatively large employers with fifty or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to just supervisory level employees. Beginning this year, California law dramatically expanded these training requirements.

Now, employers with only five or more employees must provide sexual harassment training, and they must provide it to all employees, not just supervisors (although non-supervisory employees require only one hour of training, whereas supervisor level employees must receive two hours). This training must now include education regarding harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual harassment. As before, the law still requires employers to provide this sexual harassment training every two years. Employers have until January 1, 2020 to comply with these new requirements.

Although the statute that obligates employers to conduct this training, section 12950.1 of the Government Code, does not per se penalize employers for non-compliance with these new expanded training requirements, it does afford a government agency the ability to obtain an order to compel compliance. Perhaps more importantly, an employer that fails to comply with these new training requirement may be vulnerable to an employee’s claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for failure to prevent harassment, which claim carries with it some legitimate teeth in that it entitles a prevailing plaintiff the right to recover his or her attorney’s fees, in addition to compensatory damages. If you have questions or concerns about your company’s compliance with this new harassment training requirement, please call Burkhalter Kessler Clement & George LLP for assistance.