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What is sexual harassment?

If you are a California employer or independent contractor, you may not be aware that California law requires you to train all your supervisory employees in how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The California Department of Employment and Housing defines sexual harassment as not only an unwanted sexual advance, but also any form of physical, verbal or visual sexual conduct that harasses someone of the opposite or same sex as that of the harasser.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms, including the following:

  • Physical – touching someone, assaulting them or blocking their movements
  • Verbal – making derogatory comments or jokes about someone’s physical appearance; verbally abusing them by means of degrading words or graphic commentaries of a sexual nature; requesting sexual favors in exchange for workplace benefits and/or threatening retaliation if they refuse
  • Visual – displaying sexually suggestive pictures, posters, cartoons or objects or making sexual gestures such as leering

Prevention training

If you have at least 50 employees, you must provide two hours of training in the prevention of sexual harassment to any supervisor you hire within six months of hiring him or her. In addition, you must provide two hours of such training to all your supervisory employees every two years. California regulations define supervisory personnel as anyone who has the authority to hire, transfer, reward, reassign, discipline or terminate another employee. The training may be done in a classroom or online, such as a live webinar or some form of interactive E-learning.

California is very detailed about the types of sexual harassment prevention training you must provide to your supervisory employees, including the following:

  • Types of sexual harassment conduct
  • Specific examples of sexual harassment
  • Remedies available to victims
  • Prevention strategies
  • Reporting procedures

This information is general in nature and you should not interpret it as legal advice. It is given to help you understand your obligations as an employer and give you an overview of what you need to do to prevent sexual harassment in your workplace.

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