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California legislature ponders sexual harassment bills

Three bills pending in the California state legislature will change laws regarding on-the-job sexual harassment in the state if they pass. SB-1343 will change the current law that requires employers with at least 50 workers to train supervisors within six months into a law that requires employers with at least five workers to train everyone by Jan. 1, 2020. The training must last at least two hours. Training again every two years will continue to be a requirement. Companies will have a choice of using a video that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing will be required to develop or creating their own training.

Another bill, AB-1867, will make it compulsory for companies with a minimum of 50 employees to hold onto reports of sexual harassment for 10 years. The DFEH will be able to compel a company to comply. There is also a possibility that the bill could be changed to include penalties for companies that do not comply.

Finally, Labor Code sections 230 and 230.1 may be amended by AM-2366. This bill seeks to extend to victims of sexual harassment the same protections offered to victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. These protections include offering leave both to victims and to family members who are supporting the victims.

Unfortunately, many people do not report sexual harassment because of concerns they will face retaliation such as termination or subtler forms of retaliation. People who are in this position might want to talk to an attorney about what constitutes sexual harassment, how to document it and how to recognize and tackle retaliation if it occurs in response to a report. An attorney may be able to assist in negotiations with an employer, or a lawsuit may be filed if the matter is not dealt with appropriately.

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