“Charting” a Course for the New Year: A Summary of California’s Expanded Employer Training Duties

By: Kevin P. O'Neill, Marissa L. Dragoo & Betsy Cammarata

January 09, 2019

Happy New Year! As we turn the calendar to 2019, employers across the country are taking stock of recently-enacted workplace regulations on a wide variety of topics.

Employers in the Golden State, in particular, have a lot to juggle: new governor, new legislative session, and dozens of new labor and employment laws taking effect as of January 1. These statutes touch on numerous issues, ranging from lactation accommodation to meal breaks for certain commercial drivers.

Some of the most significant changes to California law this year involve enhanced training obligations for employers. For example, the legislature has expanded existing general anti-harassment training duties to smaller employers—and to all employees. In the past, anti-harassment training requirements applied to employers with 50 or more employees and mandated the delivery of training to supervisory personnel only. Effective January 1, 2019, however, employers with 5 or more employees are obligated to provide anti-harassment and “abusive conduct” prevention training. Notably, the new law mandates such training for all non-supervisory employees as well. The first round of training must be completed by January 1, 2020, and all courses must be repeated every two years.

Additional provisions extend similar training duties for certain types of employers (i.e., janitorial services, farm labor contractors) and impose human trafficking awareness training for specified industries.

To help employers grapple with these sweeping changes, we’ve prepared the attached chart, which summarizes the primary California anti-harassment and anti-trafficking training duties. The chart first summarizes the state of the law prior to the January 1, 2019 changes and then proceeds to review any amended requirements. It describes the covered employers and employees, the mandatory training content, what records and translations are needed, and the effective date of each law.

As the compliance deadline looms, all covered employers should consider revisiting and updating their existing training policies and protocols. While there is time to plan and prepare, California employers should not procrastinate: employers should anticipate that they may have questions about their expanded duties and may need to identify supplemental training programs to satisfy the new California requirements. As the year progresses, and the upcoming legislative session takes shape, employers should keep an eye out for further developments on this topic.