On July 18, 2007, California’s Office of Administrative Law approved, with minor modification, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission’s sexual harassment training and education regulations.  The newly approved regulations will become effective August 17, 2007.  The regulations clarify employers’ obligations to provide supervisors with sexual harassment training under the Fair Employment & Housing Act ("FEHA").

Pursuant to FEHA, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide two hours of "classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees in California" every two years.  It is not necessary for all 50 employees to work at the same location or to reside in California in order for FEHA to apply.

The regulations define various acceptable forms of "effective, interactive training" including "classroom" training, "e-learing," and "webinars."  Regardless of the form of the training, it is mandatory that the instruction include questions that assess learning, skill-building activities that assess the supervisor’s application and understanding of the content learned, and numerous hypothetical scenarios about harassment, each with one or more discussion questions so that supervisors remain engaged in the training.

The regulations also clarify the qualifications that a trainer must possess.  A "trainer" must be either (1) an attorney with at least two years experience and whose practice includes employment law; (2) a human resource professional or harassment prevention consultant with a minimum of two years practical experience designing harassment/discrimination prevention training, responding to harassment or discrimination complaints, conducting investigations of sexual harassment complaints, or advising employers on these issues; or (3) law school or college professors or instructors with 20 instruction hours or 2 or more years experience teaching employment law under FEHA and Title VII.  Individuals who do not fit the definition of a "trainer" may still perform the training so long as a "trainer" supervises the training and is available to answer questions from training attendees.

Although FEHA requires employers to provide at least two hours of harassment training every two years, the regulations clarify that the training need not be completed in two consecutive hours so long as classroom training or webinars are in segments of half an hour or more.  Employers must retain documentation of the training they provide for a minimum of two years.

The full text of the regulations are available on the Fair Employment and Housing Commission’s website at http://www.fehc.ca.gov/act/harass.asp.