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California SB 1343: What Employers and Employees Need to Know About Sexual Harassment Training

Sanju Kumari
21 May 2024
19 min read
California SB 1343: What Employers and Employees Need to Know About Sexual Harassment Training

It is pertinent to note that from 1997 to 2021, there were 305,888 sexual harassment charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sexual harassment is a serious issue in U.S. workplaces, with around 38% of all women and 14% of men experiencing sexual harassment at work. 

To prevent such occurrences, laws such as California Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343) were passed. 

SB 1343 is a legislative measure effective as of January 1, 2019. It aims to expand and standardize sexual harassment prevention training requirements for a broad range of employers within the state. It emphasizes the necessity for comprehensive training to create a safer and more respectful workplace environment.

Through this article, let’s understand some of the key provisions of SB 1343, its historical context, and its relationship with SB 778. Also, we will study how employers must deliver sexual harassment training sessions to remain compliant with the law. Let’s get started. 

What led to the enactment of SB 1343? 

Sexual harassment is a pervasive and serious issue in U.S. workplaces. It significantly impacts both employees and employers. In some industries, more than 90% of women have reported being sexually harassed. Making matters worse, over 85% of individuals who experience sexual harassment never file a formal legal charge. Approximately 70% never even complain internally. This situation shows the significant barriers to reporting, including:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Lack of trust in the reporting process, or
  • A belief that no action will be taken

This creates a need for prevention and policy improvement

Before SB 1343, California had already established some measures to combat workplace harassment:

  • AB 1825 (2004)
  • It required employers with 50 or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to supervisory employees every two years.
  • AB 2053 (2014)
  • It expanded the requirements of AB 1825 to include training on the prevention of "abusive conduct" or workplace bullying

What led to the enactment of SB 1343 was influenced by several social and cultural movements and incidents. Let’s have a look at them:

  • #MeToo Movement
  • The #MeToo movement caught everyone’s attention in 2017
  • It brought significant attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace
  • This movement encouraged several individuals to speak out about their experiences
  • High-Profile Cases
  • There is a constant reporting of numerous high-profile sexual harassment cases in various industries, including:
  • Entertainment
  • Technology, and 
  • Politics
  • This again underscored the need for more stringent and widespread training and preventative measures.

The legislative journey of SB 1343

  • Senator Holly J. Mitchell introduced SB 1343 in early 2018
  • It received broad support from lawmakers, who recognized the need for more comprehensive training across a wider range of employers.
  • The bill was passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018. 
  • It became effective on January 1, 2019.

Why was SB 1343 passed?

Studies and reports indicated that sexual harassment was a widespread issue affecting a significant portion of the workforce. By expanding training requirements, SB 1343 aimed to reduce the incidence of harassment. 

In one of the major changes, SB 1343 expanded its scope by lowering the threshold from 50 employees to five. The bill ensured that nearly all workplaces in California would be required to implement harassment prevention training. Additionally,

SB 1343: enhanced workplace protections

  • Training for All Employees
  • Unlike previous laws that primarily focused on supervisory employees, SB 1343 mandated training for both:
  • Supervisory 
  • Non-supervisory employees
  • Specific Training Content
  • The law required that training cover harassment based on:
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Prevention of abusive conduct
  • This broadened scope and SB 1343 effectively addressed various forms of discrimination and harassment comprehensively.

SB 1343 promoted a safe and respectful workplace

  • Cultural Change
  • The bill aimed to create a cultural shift within workplaces towards:
  • Greater respect 

and 

  • Zero tolerance for harassment
  • Regular training was seen as a crucial tool for promoting this change.
  • Preventive Measures
  • SB 1343 creates a safer and more respectful work environment by educating employees about their rights and responsibilities
  • It also provides them with tools to recognize and prevent harassment

SB 1343 reduced legal implications

  • Reducing Liability
  • Employers who comply with SB 1343 are better positioned to defend against harassment claims
  • They can demonstrate that they have taken proactive steps to educate their workforce and prevent harassment.
  • Economic Impact
  • Harassment in the workplace can lead to significant financial costs due to:
  • Legal fees
  • Settlements
  • Decreased productivity, and
  • High employee turnover
  • SB 1343 aimed to eliminate these costs by preventing harassment incidents before they occurred.

Which employers are covered under SB 1343?

As discussed above, California Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343) significantly expands the scope of employers required to provide sexual harassment prevention training. Let’s understand the applicability of SB 1343 in detail:

Scope of Coverage

SB 1343 applies to a wide range of employers in California. It specifically targets smaller businesses and expands the requirements to include nearly all work environments. The key categories of covered employers include:

  • Private Employers
  • Public Agencies
  • Not-for-Profit Organizations

Employee Threshold

  • Minimum Employee Count
  • Any employer with five or more employees is subject to the training requirements
  • This is a substantial expansion from previous regulations, which applied to employers with 50 or more employees.
  • Inclusion Criteria for Employees
  • The five-employee threshold includes both:
  • Full-time employees

and

  • Part-time employees
  • This comprehensive count ensures that smaller organizations are also held accountable for providing a safe and respectful workplace.

 Geographic Considerations

  • Employees Outside California
  • The employee count includes employees who may work or reside outside of California. 
  • This means that 
  • If an employer has five or more employees in total,
  • Then, regardless of their geographic location,
  • The employer has to comply with SB 1343 if any part of the business operates in California.

 Types of Employment

  • Temporary and Seasonal Employees
  • The law also extends to temporary and seasonal employees
  • These workers must receive training within 30 days of hire or within their first 100 hours worked, whichever comes first

Public and Non-Profit Sectors

  • Public Agencies
  • All public sector employers, including local, state, and municipal government entities, are required to adhere to the training mandates.
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Non-profit organizations, which often have smaller staffs, are also included under the five-employee threshold

How to deliver training following the guidelines provided under SB 1343?

Under California Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343), the delivery of sexual harassment prevention training is subject to specific guidelines. All the covered employers must follow them to ensure compliance with the law. Let’s see how the training must be delivered:

The format and method of training

  • The training must be interactive
  • It must engage participants through activities that promote understanding and retention of the material. 
  • This can include:
  • Quizzes
  • Discussion questions
  • Hypothetical scenarios, and
  • Role-playing exercises
  • Interactive elements should be designed to ensure that employees are not just passively receiving information but are actively engaging with the content.

The delivery methods

  • The training can be provided using online training modules that meet the interactivity requirements.
  • The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) provides free online training courses that meet these requirements
  • This provision makes it easier for employers to comply.
  • In-Person Training: 
  • A qualified trainer can conduct in-person training sessions. 
  • These sessions often involve:
  • Live presentations
  • Group discussions, and
  • Interactive activities
  • Webinar:
  • Webinars must also be interactive
  • They must allow participants to:
  • Ask questions 

and

  • Engage in real-time discussions
  • Webinars should be conducted by a live instructor

 The qualification of trainers

  • Trainers must have expertise in:
  • Employment law 

and/or 

  • Human resources
  • Qualified trainers include:
  • Attorneys
  • Human resource professionals
  • Professors, and
  • Consultants

The content of the training

  • Supervisory and Non-Supervisory Employees:
  • Supervisors: Must receive at least 2 hours of training every 2 years.
  • Non-Supervisors: Must receive at least 1 hour of training every 2 years.
  • Training for supervisors includes additional content on:
  • Their specific responsibilities 

and

  • How to handle complaints and investigations

The mandatory topics

  • Provide clear explanations and real-life examples of what constitutes sexual harassment.
  • overview of federal and state laws regarding sexual harassment
  • Strategies for preventing harassment.
  • Information on:
  • How can employees report harassment?

and

  • What should I expect during the process?
  • Ensuring employees understand their rights and protections if they report harassment.

The record-keeping and documentation

  • Maintaining records
  • Employers must keep records of all training provided, including:
  • Dates
  • Types of training
  • Attendance logs, and
  • Copies of the training materials used
  • These records should be maintained for at least two years to demonstrate compliance during audits or inspections.
  • Certificates of Completion
  • It is advisable for employers to provide certificates of completion to employees who have successfully completed the training
  • This serves as proof of compliance and ensures that employees are aware of their training status.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Non-compliance with California Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343) can result in several penalties and consequences for employers. Let’s study them:

Enforcement by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD)

  • Investigations and Audits
  • The CRD (formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, DFEH) has the authority to conduct investigations and audits
  • It does so to ensure that employers are complying with SB 1343 training requirement
  • If the CRD receives a complaint or otherwise becomes aware of non-compliance, they can initiate an investigation.
  • Injunctions
  • If an employer is found to be non-compliant, the CRD can seek an injunction from the court
  • CRD can compel the employer to comply with the training requirements
  • For the unaware, conjunction is a legal order.
  • It forces the employer to take specific actions, such as providing the required training.
  • Administrative Penalties
  • The CRD can also impose administrative penalties on employers who fail to comply with SB 1343
  • The specific amounts of these penalties vary from case to case 

Legal Liability

  • Increased Risk of Litigation
  • Employers who do not comply with SB 1343’s training requirements can face an increased risk of litigation
  • If an employee files a harassment lawsuit, the employer’s failure to provide the mandated training can be used as evidence of negligence
  • Defense Against Claims
  • Compliance with SB 1343 can help an employer defend harassment cases
  • If an employer has provided comprehensive training as required by law, this shows that the employer took proactive steps to prevent harassment.

Some Specific Actions

  • Record-Keeping Violations
  • Employers are required to keep detailed records of the training provided
  • Failure to maintain these records can itself be a basis for penalties.
  • The CRD can impose fines for:
  • Inadequate documentation 

or

  • Lack of proof of training compliance
  • Repeated Non-Compliance
  • Employers who repeatedly fail to comply with SB 1343’s requirements face escalating penalties.
  • This usually includes:
  • Higher fines
  • More stringent injunctions
  • Increased scrutiny from the CRD.

How is SB 1343 related to SB 778?

Senate Bill 778 (SB 778) was enacted to address certain logistical challenges. Additionally, it provided clarifications related to the implementation of Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343). Readers must note that SB 778 serves as a legislative extension and amendment to SB 1343. It provides additional time and guidance for employers to comply with the mandated training requirements.

What are the extended deadlines for compliance?

Before understanding the extended deadlines, let’s first see the original deadlines under SB 1343. Initially, SB 1343 mandated that all employees receive their first round of required training by January 1, 2020. This deadline was challenging for many employers, especially those with:

  • Limited resources 

or 

  • A large workforce to train within a short timeframe.

Hence, SB 778 extended the compliance deadline for providing the initial training to January 1, 2021. This gave employers an additional year to complete the required training for their employees.

Some additional clarifications and requirements introduced by SB 778

In addition to the extension of the timeline, SB 778 also offered some additional clarifications and requirements for employers. These are:

Clarification on training for new hires

  • New Employees
  • SB 778 reaffirmed that new employees must receive training within six months of their hire date.
  • This requirement ensures that new hires are promptly educated about sexual harassment prevention.

Training for seasonal and temporary employees

  • Temporary Employees
  • For seasonal and temporary employees expected to work for less than six months, training must be provided.
  • Within 30 calendar days of hiring 

or

  • Within 100 hours worked, whichever comes first. 
  • This requirement was carried over from SB 1343 but reinforced in SB 778

Online and In-person training

  • Training Formats
  • SB 778 reiterated that both online and in-person training formats are acceptable
  • However, they must meet the interactive requirements
  • This flexibility helps employers choose the most suitable method for their workforce.

Conclusion

California Senate Bill 1343 (SB 1343) is a crucial legislative measure. Recognizing the widespread issue of sexual harassment and its serious impacts on employees and employers, SB 1343 mandates comprehensive training for both supervisory and non-supervisory employees in workplaces with five or more employees. This bill builds on previous laws but lowers the threshold from 50 employees, ensuring that almost all workplaces in California are covered.

Senate Bill 778 (SB 778) was introduced to address the implementation challenges of SB 1343. It effectively extended the compliance deadline to January 1, 2021, and provided additional clarifications. SB 778 reiterates the necessity of timely training for new hires and emphasizes the importance of maintaining detailed training records.

Also, it states that employers must deliver interactive training either online or in person. They should ensure that the training covers crucial topics like harassment based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and the prevention of abusive conduct (bullying). Non-compliance with these laws can lead to investigations and legal action by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) Why was SB 1343 introduced?

SB 1343 was introduced to expand and standardize sexual harassment prevention training in California workplaces. Its primary goal is to address widespread harassment issues and create a safer and more respectful workplace.

2) Is workplace sexual harassment a common problem in the United States?

Yes, workplace sexual harassment is a common problem in the United States. There is a significant percentage of both women and men experiencing harassment. These kinds of events usually have negative impacts on both employees and employers.

3) Who can deliver training sessions under SB 1343?

Training sessions under SB 1343 can be delivered by qualified trainers. Usually, these include:

  • Attorneys
  • Human resource professionals
  • Professors, and
  • Consultants

However, employers must ensure that the trainers possess the required expertise in employment law and human resources.

4) Can the sexual harassment prevention training be conducted online as per SB 1343?

Yes, sexual harassment prevention training can be conducted online under SB 1343. However, the online courses must meet the interactive requirements set by the law.

5) What are the free online training courses provided by The California Civil Rights Department (CRD)?

The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) offers free online training courses that satisfy SB 1343 requirements. These courses cover essential topics such as:

  • Harassment prevention
  • Reporting procedures and
  • Legal regulations

These courses provide a convenient and accessible option for employers to fulfill their training obligations.

Sanju Kumari

Sanju has a wealth of experience and expertise in instructional design, bringing innovative ideas and a fresh perspective to e-learning content development. She is passionate about merging technology and creativity for dynamic e-learning. Her passion for creating engaging and effective learning experiences aligns perfectly with Calibr's commitment to excellence. She also enjoys writing about e-learning trends in the corporate world.