Amended FEHA regulations cover a wide range of compliance topics and may require California employers to update their harassment and discrimination policies.
On April 1, new antidiscrimination amendments affecting employers take effect in California. The regulations, adopted by the Fair Employment and Housing Council, provide several policies to which employers must adhere to meet their “affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct” in the workplace. The regulations specify the information that employers must include in their harassment policies, the methods by which employers must disseminate their policies, and, potentially, the languages in which employers must provide their harassment policies.
The regulations require employers to distribute the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s DFEH-185 Brochure on Sexual Harassment and develop a harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policy.
The regulations require employers to disseminate the updated harassment policy to their employees. Compliant dissemination methods include one or more of the following:
The regulations also require that any employer whose workforce at any facility or establishment contains 10% or more of persons who speak a language other than English as their spoken language must shall translate the policy into every language that is spoken by at least 10% of the workforce.
As a reminder, California employers of 50 or more persons must also ensure that supervisors receive legally compliant training. The new regulations also provide additional detail on the requirements of such trainings, including recordkeeping requirements.
California employers should ensure that their harassment policies are compliant and distribute updated policies in accordance with the requirements stated above. Employers that are not prepared to immediately update their handbooks should consider providing an updated standalone policy in the meantime. Employers that use California handbook “supplements” should update those documents as necessary to adhere to the new regulations. Employers may also wish to modify any Handbook Acknowledgment to specifically reference receipt of the updated harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policy. HR personnel and supervisors should understand the regulatory changes and requirements. Finally, employers should ensure that their related training programs and documentation comply with updated regulatory requirements.
Please note that harassment policy updates reflect only one aspect of the updated regulations. Other notable modifications include amendments to training requirements, pregnancy disability requirements (including new posting requirements), and regulations addressing assistive animals. We recommend that appropriate in-house employment counsel and/or HR become familiar with the lengthy (90-page) regulatory amendments. We have prepared a more fulsome summary and description of key changes and best practice recommendations.
Barbara J. Miller