Effective July 1, 2016, California employers are responsible not only for ensuring their workplaces are free of harassment and discrimination, but must also establish and implement a prevention program for harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
Amendments to California's anti-discrimination regulations require employers to have in place a harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy which meets the following criteria:
· The policy must be in writing, and must include all current, protected categories under the Fair Employment Housing Act, such as sex, race, religion, color, gender, national origin, medical condition, etc. and describe exactly what kind of behavior is deemed to be harassment.
· Specifies that the law prohibits and employees are protected in the workplace from discrimination, harassment and retaliation from managers, co-workers and third parties such as vendors.
· Establishes a complaint process for claims of harassment, discrimination and retaliation that is confidential, impartial and handled in a timely manner, where progress is documented and tracked, describes options for remedial action and resolution, and provides for timely closure.
· Gives employees options as to whom they may make a complaint, including individuals other than a direct supervisor, and advises employees that complaints may also be made to the DFEH or the EEOC.
· Advises employees that they will not be subject to retaliation resulting from making a claim of harassment or discrimination or participating in a workplace investigation.
· Directs supervisors to report claims of harassment and discrimination to a specified individual.
Employers should then ensure that the prevention policy is distributed to all employees and that they have a good understanding of what the policy means. Acknowledgements of receipt of the policy can be created and kept on file. The policy should be issued to new hires, and it's wise to review the policy on a company-wide basis regularly. Employers should ensure that supervisors are particularly well-trained on the policy (and comply with requirements for bi-annual supervisor training, as appropriate) and understand the important role they play in preventing and properly dealing with harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.
Michael Freeland has been practicing law for 25 years and specializes in employment law matters including those of harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Contact Freeland Law APC for a free 30-minute consultation with Michael Freeland, experienced employment lawyer serving San Diego, California.
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