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AB 1825 Sex Harassment Trainer

A free resource for California employers about the sexual harassment training law (AB 1825).

More than sexual harassment

Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Should your AB 1825 training include subjects other than "sexual" harassment, and cover harassment based on race, religion, disability, and other protected characteristics? Yes, absolutely.

Although much of the popular focus of AB 1825 (Government Code section 12950.1) is on "sexual harassment" training, the content required to comply with the official AB 1825 regulations issued by the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) is more complex.

According to 2 CCR section 7288.0(c), "the training mandated by California Government Code section 12950.1, shall include but is not limited to..." and then goes on to list eleven items. While most of the items refer to issues involving sexual harassment (including: statutes, cases, types of misconduct, remedies, strategies to prevent, practical examples, and company resources), the two hour requirement is not satisfied by sexual harassment alone.

For example, the FEHC regulation specifies the two hours must include "FEHA and Title VII statutory provisions and case law principles concerning the prohibition against and the prevention of unlawful sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation in employment," the "limited confidentiality of the complaint process," the "employer’s obligation to conduct an effective workplace investigation of a harassment complaint," "[t]raining on what to do if the supervisor is personally accused of harassment," and the "essential elements of an anti-harassment policy...."

As stated in subsection (c)(2), the topics of "discrimination and retaliation in employment" as prohibited by "FEHA and Title VII" must be included, and these laws both forbid job bias not only based on sex, but also on race, color, religion, national origin, etc. Thus, subsection (c)(1) says, "In addition to a definition of sexual harassment, an employer may provide a definition of and train about other forms of harassment covered by the FEHA, as specified at Government Code section 12940, subdivision (j), and discuss how harassment of an employee can cover more than one basis."

Under Government Code section 12940, subdivision (j), harassment is forbidden when based on "race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation." Thus, all these types of harassment are permitted to satisfy the two hour requirement.

Moreover, as the regulation states, "harassment of an employee can cover more than one basis." This has been a growing trend in litigation; for example:
--Harassment Grand Slam
--Sexual & Nonsecular Harassment

Basically, employers should not consider sexual harassment to be so unique a type of misbehavior that it requires special training, while other types of job harassment (racial, religious, disability-related, ageist, etc.) do not. Instead, employers are required to take all reasonable steps to discourage all types of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation (including training), and should take advantage of the AB 1825 regulations to equally provide training to prevent all types of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

Thus, Government Code section 12950.1(f) says: "The training and education required by this section is intended to establish a minimum threshold and should not discourage or relieve any employer from providing for longer, more frequent, or more elaborate training and education regarding workplace harassment or other forms of unlawful discrimination in order to meet its obligations to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination."