The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) recently released a brief, nine-page guide for California employers, which was prepared in conjunction with the California Sexual Harassment Task Force. This guide is intended to assist employers in developing an effective anti-harassment program, including information about how to properly investigate reports of harassment and understand what recourse is available. The guide addresses all forms of workplace harassment, including harassment based on sex.
Specifically, the guide provides employers with information regarding the particular components for an effective anti-harassment program in the workplace. The DFEH also gives employers step-by-step guidance for how to properly handle harassment complaints and any resulting investigations. The guide discusses topics such as confidentiality during the investigation, the timeliness of an investigation, and investigator qualifications and training. In its discussion of proper investigations, the DFEH provides nine “credibility factors” which an investigator may utilize in making a determination. These factors include a party’s motive to lie, any history of dishonesty, the manner of testimony – including hesitant speech and indirect answers – and the party’s demeanor during the investigation. The guide also addresses what employers should do in unusual situations, such as: what to do when the target of harassment asks an employer not to act, how to investigate anonymous complaints, and how to handle retaliation. The DFEH emphasizes the employer’s legal obligation to prevent and correct unlawful harassing behavior, and provides information regarding remedial measures. While some of these tips may seem intuitive, this guide is a good refresher for even the savviest of employers.
In conjunction with the guide, the DFEH also released an easy-to-follow brochure and corresponding poster specifically addressing sexual harassment, which employers can provide to their employees, in compliance with California Government Code section 12950(b). The brochure and poster echo many of the same tips as the guide, but focus solely on sexual harassment. The poster and brochure include an explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment, provide examples of harassing behavior that may occur in the workplace, detail the civil remedies for harassing conduct, and outline an employer’s responsibilities and liability when allegations of sexual harassment are made.
Employers should utilize these DFEH resources when investigating and responding to claims of harassment made in the workplace.