Sexual Harassment Claims Filed and California Requirements

Ginger Galloway, MBA, SPHR  Ι  October 9, 2018

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) announced on October 4, 2018, with its release of What You Should Know: EEOC Leads the Way in Preventing Workplace Harassment, that its preliminary data for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 shows a more than 50 percent increase in sexual harassment lawsuits filed by the agency and a more than 12 percent increase in the number of charges it received over FY 2017.

This increase should not be a surprise as the Harvey Weinstein scandal pushed sexual harassment into the spotlight and it fueled the #MeToo movement. This increase should also be a notice to employers that it is more important now than ever to continue the move in workplace culture with continued and ongoing real dialogue and real action. We all need to continue education guiding and leading appropriate and professional workplace behavior and ensuring people know when and how to report sexual harassment. Those people, whether supervisors or non-supervisors, that receive complaints need to know how to take timely action and ensure claims are investigated.

Preliminary data for 2018 from the EEOC include the following statistics:

  • The agency filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that contained allegations of sexual harassment. These filings reflect more than a 50 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2017 in sexual harassment suits.
  • Charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from FY 2017.
  • EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for sexual harassment victims through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.
  • Hits on the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website more than doubled this past year, as many individuals and employers looked for workplace harassment information.

In California effective January 1, 2019, employers with five or more employees, or independent contractors, must provide sexual harassment training to all employees. This training must be completed in one year by January 1, 2020. Other key information you need to know is follows below:

  • Supervisory employees must receive two-hours of training.
  • Non-supervisory employees must receive one-hour of training.
  • After this initial training, employers must provide this training every two years.
  • New hires must receive training within six months of hire or placement.
  • Beginning January 1, 2020, seasonal and temporary employees working less than six months must receive training within 30 days of being hired (or within 100 hours worked).
  • Training for temporary employees must be provided by the temporary agency.
  • The training must include a section on preventing harassment and abuse in the workplace.
  • The training must include information on harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
  • Training must be an effective interactive program and can be completed in shorter segments as long as the total two-hour requirement is met by the deadline.

Though these requirements seem time-consuming for management and employees, the alternative of a devastating sexual harassment claim can cost the employer some real dollars. Therefore, ensure your employees, team leaders, supervisors and management team promote and contribute to respect everyone in the workplace.

BFF® HR can provide you with supervisor and employee training that meets the California requirements.