• Anne Kong

California Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

Updated: Mar 24



When it comes to training employees, the law can feel dizzyingly complicated. Especially if you’re trying to figure out exactly what training you need to give to team members living in different states, which of course, all have different requirements. Below, we’ll summarize the key legal requirements that you need to comply with to get compliant if you have employees working in California. Please note that this is not legal advice and, in order not to overwhelm you, there are nuances that we do not address.


Requirement #1: Companies with 5+ employees anywhere must provide harassment prevention training in California.


What this means is that regardless of your company HQ, if you have more than 5 people (whether they be employees, contractors, volunteers, interns. etc.) working for the company anywhere, not just California, then all employees (excluding contractors, volunteers, and interns) working in California are required to be trained.


In order for training to count in California, it must meet a certain set of requirements. We’ve gone ahead and listed them out below, so you don’t have to research this on your own. It might seem overwhelming, but e-learning providers will usually help take care of all this for you.

California sexual harassment prevention training structure and format requirements


How long does sexual harassment prevention training need to be in California?


Employers must provide one hour of training to individual employees and two hours of training to supervisors by January 1, 2021 and provide this training every two years moving forward. Training must be completed within six months of an employee being hired or promoted to a supervisory role.


For seasonal, temporary, or other employees working fewer than six months, an employer must provide training within 30 calendar days after the hire date or within 100 hours worked, depending on whichever occurs first. (If they don’t work 30 days or 100 hours, training won’t be required.) The amount of training they must receive depends on their supervisory status, which we covered above.


How does sexual harassment prevention training in California need to be formatted?


California allows for multiple styles of training to be used, such as classroom, webinar, and e-learning.


With modern work schedules and decreased attention spans (we get it, the internet is distracting!), it’s helpful to know that training does not need to be conducted in one session and can be completed over the course of multiple sessions, as long as the cumulative amount of time is met. While each classroom and webinar must be at least 30 minutes in length, e-learning training sessions have no time requirement minimum and California specifically allows for “bookmarking” so employees can pause and resume their training as necessary..


This is consistent with the EEOC recommendation that training not be done all at once, as training over time directly reinforces helpful knowledge and communicates the importance of harassment prevention in your company’s culture.


“If anti-harassment trainings are held once a year (or once every other year), employees will not believe that preventing harassment is a high priority for the employer.”


How interactive does my harassment prevention training need to be?


The EEOC emphasizes the importance of selecting engaging, interactive training and cautions “against simply repeating the same training over and over, which risks becoming a rote exercise. Rather, we urge employers to consider training that is varied and dynamic in style, form, and content.”


California requires that the mandated training be “effective, interactive training.”


“Interactive” doesn’t mean that it must be completed in person. It simply means that employees must be able to ask questions, either in person or on-line provided they get responses within 2 days.


Effective, interactive training needs to include the following:

  • Questions that assess learning.

  • Skill-building activities that assess whether the employee can understand and apply learnings from the training.

  • Hypothetical scenarios about harassment that include discussion questions. Bonus points if the scenarios are tailored and relevant to the industry and workforce!


One of my employees has a question about the material. Where do questions about the training go?


All training, whether online or in-person, must provide access or links to a trainer who can answer questions. Records of written questions and responses must be maintained for two years after the response.


Are there any qualifications trainers need to meet?


If employers would like to hire trainers, either for in-person or webinar sessions, they must be able to provide training on the topics described in the content table below. Trainers must also have two years of relevant experience as one of the following: an attorney, human resources professional, harassment prevention consultant, peer-to-peer trainer, or university professor.


E-learning training must be created by a trainer with these same qualifications. .


What are the language requirements?


Although there are no explicit language requirements that third parties or employers must follow when delivering training, the assumption is that employees must be able to understand the training for it to even be effective so it is important to make sure that the language of the training accomplishes that objective.


Do I have to keep training records?


Employers must keep records of the training for at least two years. Records include the names of the employees trained, the date of training, the sign in sheet (if applicable), a copy of all certificates of attendance or completion issued, the type of training, a copy of all written or recorded materials that comprise of the training, questions and answers if they were sent in writing, and the name of the training provider.


California harassment prevention training content requirements


The goal of the training is to change workplace behaviors that create or contribute to harassment, to educate employees about the negative effects of abusive conduct, and to train supervisors to prevent and effectively respond to incidents of harassment and implement tools to promptly address and correct wrongful behavior.


What federal and state statutory provisions must training cover?


Training must cover the following:

  • Explanations of the federal and state statutory provisions around unlawful harassment, discrimination and retaliation

  • What conduct constitutes unlawful harassment, measures to take to correct behavior, and strategies to prevent it in the workplace

  • Individual and employer liability

  • Resources and options for those subject to unlawful harassment, such as the reporting process

  • Obligation of supervisors to report any situations as soon as they become aware and what to do if a supervisor is accused of harassment

  • Basics of a standard, legally-sound anti-harassment policy

  • Gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation: Training must cover harassment based on all three of these, along with examples.

  • Abusive conduct: Training must include abusive conduct prevention, and explain the negative effects that abusive conduct has on the individual as well as the workplace.

  • Bystander intervention: Employers are encouraged to include bystander intervention training, but are not required to. Bystander intervention training encourages employees to become active participants in an anti-harassment work culture.


Does training need to include practical examples?


Training, whether done in-person or done online via e-learning, must include practical examples that illustrate harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace. To make training more effective, examples should be tailored to situations that occur based on the industry and workplace. For example, hypothetical situations in the training given to a 50-person tech startup should be different from those given to an 800-person manufacturing company.



Requirement #2: Create company policies (harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention) and procedures


Employers are required to develop a harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policy. Some of the key components of that policy include that:

  1. Is in writing

  2. Lists currently protected categories

  3. Indicates that not only supervisors and managers, but also coworkers and third parties are prohibited from engaging in the specified conduct

  4. Outlines the complaint process and provides an option for an individual to do so without contacting their immediate supervisor. Emphasizes that employees should not be exposed to retaliation in the workplace as a result of reporting

  5. Makes it clear that supervisors are required to report any complaints or instances of misconduct

  6. Indicates that employers will conduct a fair, timely, and thorough investigation after receiving an allegation of misconduct. If misconduct is found, appropriate action will be taken

  7. Emphasizes that confidentiality will be kept as much as possible, but there is no guarantee that the investigation will be completely confidential


Requirement #3: Distribute policies and an information sheet on sexual harassment to all employees


Employers must distribute 1) an information sheet on sexual harassment and 2) the company’s policies by one or more of the following methods:

  1. Printed in hard copy, along with an acknowledgement form

  2. Emailed, along with an acknowledgement form

  3. Posted on the company’s intranet, along with a tracking system to ensure employees have read and acknowledged the policies. This can sometimes be done from e-learning training or HRIS platforms

  4. Included in new-hire orientation


In addition, employers must post, in a prominent and accessible location, a poster developed by CA regarding transgender rights.


These policies should be distributed and discussed multiple times over the course of the year to ensure everyone fully understands and retains the information.


With all these requirements in California alone, this may seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you have to manage offices/employees in multiple states they are subject to different laws around sexual harassment training. The good news: there are providers, like Ethena, who will handle the complexities for you, and work with you to help ensure your team is set up for success.


Let’s train better.


Please note this is not legal advice nor does it contain every detail or requirement of the applicable laws: it is provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be relied upon. If you have questions about these laws, please consult your legal counsel.



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Latham & Watkins wrote about our unique and effective approach to harassment prevention. It’s less boring than it sounds!

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A company using Ethena could reasonably expect to face fewer enforcement actions and to be less vulnerable to liability for sexual harassment."

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