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Senate Labor Committee Unanimously Passes Bill Clarifying Sexual Harassment Training Deadlines

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Earlier this week, the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee passed Senate Bill (SB) 778 (Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement), which would clarify deadlines for providing sexual harassment prevention training.

In addition to extending by one year the deadline for complying with new anti-harassment training requirements, the bill also would allow employers who have provided anti-harassment training to either supervisory or non-supervisory employees between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2020, to maintain their existing bi-annual training schedule.

The bill seeks to address significant confusion over the deadlines in SB 1343 (Chapter 956, Statutes of 2018), which requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to non-supervisory staff — effective Jan. 1, 2020 — and every two years thereafter. SB 1343 included grandfather language for training conducted in 2019, but its application to existing supervisory training requirements was unclear. 

After SB 1343 took effect, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing issued a frequently asked questions document about the new law. According to the department, all training — both supervisory and non-supervisory — must be completed by Jan. 1, 2020, and only training conducted in 2019 would be considered compliant. Thus, if a hospital provided sexual harassment training to supervisors in 2018, the hospital would have to provide that training again in 2019, rather than in 2020 as previously required. The employer community did not believe this was the intent of SB 1343 and brought their concerns to the attention of the bill’s author, Sen. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), as well as the Senate Labor Committee.

Both the senator and the committee agreed that it would be beneficial to clarify the deadlines; SB 778 would do so, and includes an urgency clause so that it would go into effect immediately if signed. While the bill must still pass several other committees as well as both houses and be signed by the Governor, this first committee action is positive news — particularly as the bill passed unanimously and faced no opposition.