By Shireen Husain, Kristina Launey, and Laura Maechtlen

In 2013, the Legislature made significant changes to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, including empowering the Department to file civil actions directly against employers, authorizing the award of attorneys’ fees to the Department, and creating the Fair Employment and Housing Council.

The Council has been feverishly proposing and enacting regulations pursuant to its new authority, including proposed amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) regulations.  If enacted, these amendments could mean substantial changes to your sexual harassment and discrimination policies and procedures.

What’s new?

Last Thursday, the Council met to consider amendments.  Currently before the Council is a proposed new section 11023, entitled Harassment and Discrimination Prevention and Correction, which would require employers to develop  written sexual harassment and discrimination policies that:

  • Specifically address the liability of supervisors
  • Create a “confidential” complaint process (although employers should not promise that the investigation will be completely confidential)
  • Provide for complaints through channels other than the complaining employee’s direct supervisor
  • Designate a company representative to receive complaints and facilitate internal resolution of disputes
  • Provide for fair, timely, and thorough investigations of complaints and provides due process to all parties
  • Are provided to all employees with an acknowledgment return form or using a method that ensures employees receive and understand the policies
  • Are provided in every language that is spoken by at least 10% of the workforce

In addition, the amendments include a 2 year record retention requirement for all sexual harassment training materials, including sign in sheets and course materials.  Training must include information regarding potential employer and individual liability in civil actions and highlight supervisors’ obligations to report sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Important Highlights

While many of the proposed amendments do not substantively change the law, the changes may be an indication of the focus of the Council in 2014 and a good reminder of employer best practices.  Don’t forget:
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