California Amends Employment Discrimination Regulations
Under the amended California employment regulations, employers are required to establish a written discrimination, harassment and retaliation prevention policy. That policy must include a list of all protected categories covered under the Act, a description of the company’s complaint process, and a statement prohibiting retaliation against employees who report complaints or participate in an investigation. The complaints process must be designed to ensure complaints are kept confidential where possible, dealt with in a timely manner, impartially investigated, accurately documented, offered appropriate response options, and closed in a timely manner.
The amended regulations also define key terms as they relate to gender discrimination. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers cannot discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of gender, gender identity or gender expression. The amendments set out definitions of gender expression, gender identity, sex, sex stereotype and transgender.
Under the amended law, discrimination, harassment and retaliation protections now extend to unpaid interns and anyone else who is serving in a program that provides unpaid work or industry experience, such as apprentices. Furthermore, unpaid workers must be given reasonable accommodation for religious observances.
Sexual harassment prevention has also been updated. Employers who are required to provide sexual harassment training every two years to certain employees must now document the training and keep that documentation for a minimum of two years. Employers must also keep copies of written training materials and written questions and answers. Training must include information about the negative effects of workplace harassment and elements of abusive conduct.
“The training should specifically discuss the elements of ‘abusive conduct,’ including conduct undertaken with malice that a reasonable person would find hostile or offensive and that is not related to an employer’s legitimate business interests,” the amendments state. “Examples of abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.”
Where employers have violated any California discrimination or harassment law, employees may be eligible to file a lawsuit against their employer.