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California Harassment Training Under California Law: Is the Compliance Deadline Still Set for January 1, 2021 Due to COVID-19 Pandemic?


As of October 28th, 2020, the California Department of Public Health reports that 908,713 cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed in the state. The pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of life in California, including the workplace. You may be wondering: Did California extend the compliance deadline for workplace harassment training?

The short answer is ‘no’, the January 1, 2021 deadline is still in place for employer’s compliance obligations with California workplace harassment training. To make it easier for employers to maintain compliance, state regulators issued guidance emphasizing that “online” training is sufficient to satisfy the state’s sexual harassment training requirements. 

The Compliance Deadline is Still January 1st, 2021  

In August 2019, California lawmakers pushed the mandatory sexual harassment training deadline back one year—from January 2020 until January of 2021. In light of many restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reasonable to wonder if the deadline has been extended a second time.

However, neither Governor Gavin Newsom nor state regulators have taken any action to change the January 1, 2021 deadline. All employers covered by the statute must ensure that their employees completed the required training before January.

An Overview of California’s Harassment Training Requirement 

As explained by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), state law requires all companies and organizations with five or more total employees to provide at least one hour of anti-harassment training to non-supervisory employees and two hours of anti-harassment training to supervisory employees.

The initial first mandatory training deadline is currently set for January 1, 2021. Going forward, all employers should ensure that their employees receive the relevant training within six months of being hired and at least once every two years after that.

The training is designed to address the ongoing problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. Within the anti-harassment training, all employees will receive an overview of federal law and will be reminded of what conduct is (and is not) appropriate in the workplace.  

Online/Virtual Training is Sufficient to Satisfy State Law

Notably, there are many different ways to satisfy the training requirement. As long as training meets the state standards, employers may opt to provide their own program (with an California compliant trainer) or they may use the resources set up by the DFEH.

Employers may satisfy the training requirement by providing training that is “live in a classroom setting, online, or in any other effective, interactive format.” In addition, employees can complete the sexual harassment training individually or as part of a larger, group presentation. Any in-person training should be conducted in accordance with all applicable public health guidelines.

 Contact a California Employment Law Attorney for Additional Information 

Employment law is complicated. If you have any specific questions or concerns about California’s harassment training requirements or looking for assistance with your training obligations, reach out to an experienced employment lawyer for help.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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