The California Fair Employment & Housing Council (FEHC) recently passed new regulations that strengthen California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA). This is the state law banning discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace, which is already among the toughest in the nation. These new regulations take effect on April 1, 2016.
Under the new regulations:
1. Employers with fewer than 5 employees may now be subject to FEHA if they use outside contractors, interns, and/or unpaid volunteers.
2. FEHA is broadened to protect not only employees, but also unpaid interns and volunteers.
3. Transgendered workers are protected by the elimination of the word “woman” from FEHA’s pregnancy-related protections.
4. Sexual harassment policies, to be legally compliant, must now include a:
(a) Full list of all prohibited bases on which to make employment decisions, including gender identity and gender expression;
(b) Statement that the policy protects against harassment not only by other employees but also third parties with whom an employee comes into contact;
(c) Statement that an employee is not required to complain to his/her supervisor;
(d) Full list of personnel designed by the employer to receive complaints;
(e) Statement to supervisors informing them to whom they should complain;
(f) Statement that the employer will conduct a fair, timely, and thorough investigation that provides all parties with due process and that reaches a reasonable conclusion that is supported by the findings of the investigation;
(g) Statement assuring the complainant that his/her complaint will be resolved on a timely basis;
(h) Statement that the employer will guarantee confidentiality throughout the process, to the extent possible;
(i) Statement that the employer will monitor and track the investigation into the complaint for progress, on a regular basis;
(j) Statement that all investigations will be impartial and conducted by persons qualified to conduct workplace investigations;
(k) Guarantee of “appropriate options for remedial actions and resolutions,” including a guarantee that remedial measures will be taken if an investigation concludes that wrongful conduct occurred; and
(i) Statement making clear that retaliation is illegal and will not be tolerated.
5. Employers are now required to distribute pamphlets (DFEH-185, which can be found here) on sexual harassment and ensure that employees are provided a copy of the employer’s sexual harassment policy by hard copy, email, or intranet.
6. Employers must translate their sexual harassment policy into any other language when 10% or more of the employer’s workforce speaks that language.
7. Employers now must keep copies of all materials distributed or used in mandated sexual harassment training classes for two years, including PowerPoint slides, handouts, attendance records, questions submitted to the trainer, and responses given by the trainer.
These new regulations will likely require employers to make significant changes to their existing employee handbooks and sexual harassment policies. Y0u can find the full text of the regulations here.