Should a California Church Provide Sexual Harassment Training to Employees and Volunteers?

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The #MeToo movement has sparked a renewed conversation in society about how sexual harassment harms careers and causes victims to suffer. States around the country have adopted fresh rules for employers in an effort to deter harassment in the workplace. California is no exception.

California’s SB 1343, which became effective on January 1, 2019, requires every employer in California with five or more employees to “act to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment” by adopting a number of practices, including hanging a poster that notifies employees of their rights with respect to workplace discrimination and harassment and providing sexual harassment training.

The law requires employers who are subject to the rule to provide at least two hours of training to supervisory employees and at least one hour of training to all other employees. The training must be provided within six months of the individual beginning work. The employer is allowed to choose the particulars of the training, such as whether to provide it on an individual basis or in groups. Starting in 2020, employers will need to refresh the training of existing employees at least every two years.

The training, which must be conducted by a qualified instructor, can be obtained in a variety of ways. An HR consulting firm or law firm may be able to provide the training, and it also can be found at low cost online. The training must include the following topics:

  • State and federal rules prohibiting sexual harassment.
  • Rules regarding the prevention and correction of sexual harassment.
  • Remedies available to victims.
  • Practical examples.

Churches with fewer than five employees may want to consider providing the training even though it is not obligatory. The goal of preventing sexual harassment is not just to protect the church from legal liability, but to ensure a safe workplace.

The Church Law Center of California has extensive experience counseling churches and other nonprofits. If your church has questions about its obligations under SB 1343 give us a call. We can be reached at (949) 892-1221 or through our contact page.

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