The New Year ushered in a number of laws increasing employee protections related to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in California.
Sexual harassment training:
To start, California employers with 50 or more employees must provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment prevention training every two years. Employers must now make sure any mandatory training course they use covers harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
Taken one step further, supervisors must also be trained in how to identify harassment that is based on gender identify, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Gender identity is defined as a person’s “internal understanding of their gender…which may include male, female, a combination of male and female, neither male nor female, a gender different from the person’s sex assigned at birth and transgender.” Gender expression means “gender-related appearance and behavior, whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.” This new law expands the grounds for harassment claims in California workplaces of a certain size.
California now allows residents to choose from three equally recognized gender options on state-issued documents (such as identification cards, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses). Individuals may change their gender on legal documents more easily starting on September 1, 2018. Employers should be sensitive to gender identity and gender expression issues if employees make changes to legal documents such as driver’s licenses.
Gender Neutral Pronouns:
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act has also seen changes to gender-specific language, including by deleting gender-specific personal pronouns by changing “he” or “she” to “the person” or “the employee.”
Another new law in California provides that training provided to receive a farm labor contractor’s license must now be conducted or interpreted in a language the employee understands. Harassment prevention materials used in training must be submitted to the Labor Commissioner.
Finally, as of 2018, employers must now adhere to a law affecting protections for whistleblowers, or those who report wrongdoing in the workplace. The maximum fine for a violation of whistleblower protections in healthcare facilities has increased from $20,000 to $75,000. This new law should serve as a greater deterrent to employers who seek to punish employees for reporting what the employees perceive as wrongdoing.
For more information on these and other updates to California employment law, contact attorney Drew E. Pomerance today.