Tag Archives: anti-harassment program

Hot Off The Presses — New Workplace Harassment Guidance for California Employers

To accompany the recent changes to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) regulations (which, among other things, clarify California employers’ obligation to prevent and correct wrongful behavior), the California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) recently published a “Workplace Harassment Guide for California Employers.”  This Guide is intended to provide California employers with guidance on how to structure of an effective anti-harassment program.  It also addresses the questions employers are most likely to ask when formulating and enforcing harassment policies.

Identifying the Elements of an Effective Anti-Harassment Program

The Guide first outlines the elements of an “effective anti-harassment program”, which include:

  • A clear and easy to understand written policy that is distributed to employees and discussed at meetings on a regular basis (for example, every six months). The regulations list the required components of an anti-harassment policy at 2 CCR §11023.
  • Buy in from the top. This means that management is a role model of appropriate workplace behavior, understands the policies, walks the walk and talks the talk.
  • Training for supervisors and managers (two-hour training is mandated under two laws commonly referred to as AB 1825 and AB 2053, for more information on this see DFEH training FAQs).
  • Specialized training for complaint handlers.
  • Policies and procedures for responding to and investigating complaints.
  • Prompt, thorough and fair investigations of complaints.
  • Prompt and fair remedial action.

Next the Guide addresses (step-by-step) how employers should handle a complaint of harassment or other wrongful behavior, including:

  • Giving the complaint “top priority”
  • Conducting a fair investigation into the complaint by —
    • Thoroughly interviewing with the complaining party, preferably in person.• Giving the accused party a chance to tell his/her side of the story, preferably in person.• Interviewing relevant witnesses and reviewing relevant documents.• Performing any other work that might be necessary to gather all the facts (e.g.visit the work site, view videotapes, take pictures, etc.).

      • Reaching a reasonable and fair conclusion based on the information you collected, reviewed and analyzed during the investigation.

  • Imposing limitations on the confidentiality of the investigation
  • Maintaining impartiality during the investigation
  • Using an investigator who is trained and qualified to conduct investigations
  • Making factual conclusions instead of legal conclusions;
  • Documenting evidence;
  • Handling special issues such as anonymous complaints and what to do if the target of harassment asks the employer not to do anything; and
  • Preventing and addressing retaliation.

Take Home for Employers

It is recommended that all California employers review the new guide and verify that their internal procedures for handling employee complaints of this nature align with those recommended in the Guide.

Also, the DFEH  provided a new poster and employee brochure on sexual harassment, so employers should be sure to update these items if used as part of their workplace postings.