Last year, we issued an advisory about new regulations under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that required employers to update their anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and complaint-investigation policies, and their sexual harassment prevention training.
On May 2, 2017, the Department of Fair Employment & Housing issued a Workplace Harassment Guide for California Employers. The new Guide is intended to assist employers in meeting their obligations to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct workplace harassment. The Guide addresses (1) the requisite elements of an effective anti-harassment program; (2) the appropriate response to a complaint of harassment or other wrongful behavior (such as bullying); (3) the basic steps required for a fair investigation; and (4) the implementation of effective remedial measures.
The DFEH has also issued a new brochure and information sheet regarding workplace harassment. These materials include a description of the types of harassment prohibited by the FEHA; examples of behaviors that may constitute unlawful sexual harassment; procedures and policies that employers must develop and implement to prevent and correct sexual harassment; and a summary of the remedies available for harassment and retaliation claims. Distribution of either the new brochure or information sheet to its employees will, according to the DFEH, “fulfill an employer’s responsibility to provide employees an information sheet regarding sexual harassment….” An employer will be in compliance with these requirements if its written policies and/or employee handbook either contain the same information that is in the DFEH brochure or repeat verbatim the DFEH information sheet.
Links to the DFEH’s May 2, 2017 Press Release regarding its new Workplace Harassment Guide for California Employers, as well as the documents discussed in this Advisory, are provided below.
- California Department of Fair Employment & Housing 5/2/17 Press Release
- California Department of Fair Employment & Housing Workplace Harassment Guide for California Employers
- California Department of Fair Employment & Housing Revised Information Sheet/Poster on Sexual Harassment
- California Department of Fair Employment & Housing Revised Brochure
Companies with California employees should carefully review these documents and resources, paying particular attention to the recommended practices for conducting workplace investigations. Fair, thorough and timely investigations are essential for several reasons: They enable a company to determine the facts behind a complaint so that appropriate corrective action can be taken; they help establish employer credibility, which in turn fosters a positive work environment; and they can position the company to defend itself effectively against any legal challenge, whether by an accuser or an accused.
Employers should review their existing anti-harassment policies and employee handbooks to ensure that they are fully compliant with all current requirements. (See Advisory) Where feasible, employers should consider distributing the new DFEH brochure and/or information sheet to new hires.
Note that as of the date of this Advisory, the Spanish-language version of the revised brochure and information sheet has not yet been uploaded on the DFEH website (although the 2007 version is available at www.dfeh.ca.gov).
Finally, employers must prominently post the newly published DFEH poster entitled “California Law Prohibits Workplace Discrimination and Harassment” (DFEH-162-2015).