Workplace Harassment

Employer Responsibilities on Sexual Harassment Prevention in California

  • 29th April 2016

As part of the approved amendments made to the Fair Employment and Housing Act Regulations which went into effect on April 1, 2016, the amendments clarify an employer’s affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct in the workplace and the penalties for failing to do so (Gov. Code, § 12940(k)).

Pursuant to § 11023(b) of the Act, employers shall provide employees a workplace free from prohibited employment practices. In order to maintain a workplace free of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, the Department’s DFEH-185 brochure on sexual harassment, or its equivalent, shall be distributed to all employees. Additionally, a written prevention policy on harassment, discrimination, and retaliation shall be developed to include information on prohibited conduct, protected categories, a proper complaint procedure (which ensures employee confidentiality, timely response to complaints, impartial and timely investigations by qualified personnel, documentation and tracking for reasonable progress, appropriate options for remedial actions and resolutions, and timely closures), and makes clear that employees shall not be retaliated against for lodging a complaint or participating in an investigation.

Employers shall disseminate said written policies to all employees by one or more of the following methods:

  • providing a printed copy with an acknowledgment form to which employee shall sign and return;
  • sending via email with an acknowledgment form to which employee shall sign and return;
  • posting on a company intranet with a tracking system to ensure all employees have read and acknowledged receipt of the policies;
  • discussing policies upon hire and/or during a new hire orientation session; and/or
  • any alternative method which ensures employees receive and understand the policies.

The written policy shall be provided in English and any language that is spoken by at least ten percent of the workforce.

The Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) may independently seek non-monetary preventative remedies for a violation of Gov. Code,  § 12940(k), regardless of whether it prevails or fails on an underlying claim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation (Code Regs. title 2,  § 11023(a)(3)).

Stay in compliance by issuing the sexual harassment pamphlets to employees. Osha4less also offers workplace harassment prevention training options that meet federal and state requirements and can help your organization achieve a respectful work environment free from harassment and discrimination.

Workplace Harassment Means Big Trouble. Are You Prepared?

  • 2nd May 2013

workplace harassment trainingThis month we are featuring our Harassment Training program to protect employers and employees from lawsuits and unlawful conduct in the workplace. There are many anti-discrimination laws in effect that protect employees from unlawful conduct. Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination and while not necessarily intentional happens on a day-to-day basis in harassment prone environments like restaurants, bars and office buildings. According to the U.S EEOC, Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Welcome to EveryCo, a fictional company in your industry.

Meet Roger, a respected, likable high-producing manager with a touchy feely style and edgy sense of humor. Everyone knows he’s got a good heart and doesn’t mean anything by it. Today, he’s meeting with Margo, an employee, about a promotion.  When Margo arrives, Roger’s on the phone, joking with a fellow manager about a gay employee who came in on casual Friday looking like “I Dream of Jeannie”. Margo’s embarrassed by the phone conversation and the picture on Roger’s desk of his wife on the beach in Rio. Enough said.

Margo’s easily offended. That irritates Roger and raises concerns re: the promotion. Roger speaks with her candidly, says she’s qualified, he wants to see her advance, but she’s uptight and distant, she makes people paranoid.  He says she needs to loosen up, be part of the team, show up at happy hour, the parties, the picnic. He jokingly says she needs to “liberate herself from that Catholic School upbringing”.

These are opening moments of a powerful, entertaining episode Kit Goldman and co-facilitator, Memo Mendez, perform in their interactive, “edutainment”-style training on Workplace Harassment — and It’s all downhill from there!

Think Roger’s behavior is over the top? Think it doesn’t happen — not here, not now in our enlightened, oh so “PC” workplaces? Please. Give me your rose colored glasses and get me a latte with an extra shot. That kind of situation and a vast number of other high-risk scenarios happen all the time, even in world class workplaces. It’s often unintentional, unrecognized, and unreported — until a lawsuit is filed or the EEOC comes calling.

It’s a ticking litigation time bomb which can be defused via meaningful, high impact, relevant training on Workplace Harassment which teaches:

  • Awareness
  • Recognition
  • Prevention
  • Response

So — any harassment in Roger’s office? Probably.  If so, Margo and Roger, like your employees and managers, have legal rights and responsibilities they need to exercise and fulfill. Do your employees and managers know how to recognize harassment and how to respond should it occur? You need them to!

Here are 3 core concepts our powerful, realistic, prime time training drives home like no other can:

1. Harassment is Unwelcome Conduct: If it’s welcome, it’s not necessarily harassment. But welcome to whom? Roger was in a private conversation with a fellow manager when Margo walked in. Maybe the conversation had sexual or homophobic overtones, but it was welcome to the people having it.  However, we work in an environment. Sound carries. Images carry. We can’t just think about what’s welcome in our direct interactions, but also to those in the work environment.

2. Intent vs. Impact: Harassment is about impact not intent. It’s defined 100% by the impact on the other person. Intentions are irrelevant. Like the NFL. You’re offside, you get caught, there’s a penalty, whether you meant it or not. As mentioned, Roger’s good hearted. He doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just being himself.  Unfortunately, unless he’s enlightened, he’s a runaway train rumbling toward a cliff with the company’s good name and resources aboard.

3. Consenting vs. Welcome: If someone consents to something, it’s probably welcome, right? Let’s say you get off work, it’s dark, you’re in the parking lot, a stranger comes up behind you, puts a 9 MM to your head, says “give me your wallet or I’ll blow your brains out”. You going to give it up? Darn Skippy. Did you consent? Yes. Did you welcome giving up your wallet? Of course not. The law recognizes that in the workplace people consent to things they don’t welcome for a variety of reasons explored in the seminars on Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment.Speaking of your wallet, when compared with the costs of lawsuits, settlements and compliance audits, Workplace Harassment training is incredibly cost effective.

And if, heaven forbid, you end up in court, your efforts at prevention and how management responded can play a huge role in the outcome.

Yet sadly, some employers choose not to do it. Here are some common reasons why:

  • Training will just stir things up
  • It’s a can of worms
  • Why open Pandora’s Box?
  • Let sleeping dogs lie

On this last, let me say dogs usually do wake up and when they do — training’s a very good thing.

Still not sure if you’ll roll out training on WORKPLACE HARASSMENT for your team? Check out this tiny sampling of headlines, then get in touch with us.

kit_promo2 (2)Kit Goldman is President and Founder of the Workplace Training Network, Inc., an OSHA4LESS.COM strategic partner, producing the most powerful, entertaining, interactive workplace training available.