In recent years, the issue of sexual harassment has received more media attention than any other ethics and compliance issue. New mandatory training requirements on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace have also recently been implemented by the State of California. Nonprofit leaders and staff need to make sure they learn what these updated policies are, and that the organization has adequate safeguards and responsive reporting tools in place so employees can feel protected and supported in the workplace.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Overall, sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is persistent or offensive and interferes with an employee’s job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment is defined by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as:
“unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when, for example: (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment,
(b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
The above is a general summary of the more detailed definition; however, the different types and degrees of sexual harassment behaviors need to be understood as well. For instance, sexual harassment can be physical, psychological, or a combination of both. And while any one incident may not be considered harassment on its own, when several incidents occur or the offensive behavior becomes persistent, that can result in sexual harassment. The expanded training requirements for sexual harassment prevention likely will result in a longer list of actions that a nonprofit leader needs to become fully informed about and prepared to execute.
Who Must Understand this Issue?
Everyone in the workplace needs to understand the issue of sexual harassment and other types of discrimination and harassment. The #MeToo Movement has brought much-needed attention to this issue by empowering people suffering from sexual harassment to speak out and report these behaviors. It is crucial that employers recognize their responsibility to protect their employees (as well as the organization’s good standing in the community) by implementing a set of procedures that allows employees to report sexual harassment with confidence and without fear of retribution or recrimination.
Employees should report any concerns about sexual harassment or inappropriate sexual conduct to the Human Resources (HR) director or a supervisor or manager as soon as possible. It is the responsibility of the HR director, manager or supervisor to take immediate and fair action when they have any knowledge of sexual harassment whether or not there has been a written or formal complaint.
After an investigation of a complaint, employees who are found to have violated the sexual harassment policy are subject to appropriate discipline. This can range from the mandatory minimum discipline of a written reprimand to termination of employment. In some cases, the person may also be subject to civil damages or criminal penalties.
Who Needs to Be Trained?
In prior years, only supervisors in an organization with 50 or more staff were legally required to take sexual harassment training. However, in 2018, California’s legislature passed SB 1343, which expanded the classification of employees who are required to receive training on sexual harassment. By January 1, 2020, employers with at least five employees must provide: (1) at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees, and (2) at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all non-supervisory employees in California within six months of their hire. The training must be provided once every two years.
Employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training to temporary or seasonal employees within 30 calendar days after their hire date or within 100 hours worked if the employee is contracted to work for less than six months. In the case of a temporary employee employed by a temporary services employer (as defined by the California Labor Code) to perform services for clients, the training must be provided by the temporary services employer, not the client.
Employers who provide the required trainings after January 1, 2019, are not required to comply with the January 1, 2020 deadline.
As a nonprofit employer, it’s imperative to understand the significance and scope of this ruling. Now more than ever it’s essential for employers to create a workplace culture where everyone feels safe and respected. Employers need to become aware of contemporary and emerging issues faced by people of all backgrounds, and seek the training necessary for themselves and their staff to prevent, recognize or address any potential sexual harassment issues that may arise.
Spokes Sexual Harassment Training Workshop
Spokes is presenting a Preventing Sexual Harassment and Discrimination workshop on Tuesday, September 17, at the Spokes office in San Luis Obispo. Find out how to prevent abusive conduct, sexual harassment and discrimination with this high-energy and interactive course. Fully compliant with California AB 1825, proof of attendance and a certification of completion will be provided at the end of successful completion of the course. Click here to sign up online.