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California Employers Must Have Anti-Discrimination Policies

On April 1, 2016, California implemented what it described as reasonable actions to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment. Learn about these anti-discrimination policy requirements and your responsibilities as an employer.

The most populous state in the U.S. has implemented what it describes as reasonable actions to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment. California regulations will require all employers with five or more workers to have written policies that ban discrimination and harassment. They also expand on previous state gender identity protections by spelling out that sex discrimination policies are not just for women workers according to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The regulations, related to the state's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), went into effect April 1, 2016.

The written policies must be detailed, according the regulations. They are supposed to list the protected classes under FEHA—including unpaid interns, volunteers, and pregnant women—and provide a mechanism for workers to report a complaint with someone other than their direct supervisor.

Some of the other written policy requirements include:

  • Instruct supervisors to report all complaints;
  • State that all complaints will be followed by a fair, complete and timely investigation;
  • State that the employer will maintain confidentiality to the extent possible;
  • State that remedial action will be taken if any misconduct is found;
  • State that employees will not be retaliated against for complaining or participating in an investigation; and
  • State that supervisors, co-workers, and third-parties are prohibited from engaging in unlawful behavior under the FEHA.

The policies must be distributed to all present and future workers. If more than one-tenth of the workers speak a language other than English, the policies need to be translated for them.

The rules also stipulate that females are not the only group protected from sex discrimination under FEHA. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing says in its summary of the regulations: "Discrimination on the basis of sex protects all individuals from sex discrimination—not just females... Gender identity, gender expression, and transgender status are expressly protected."

The regulation changes should further place California in the vanguard of U.S. states combating sex discrimination in the workplace.

California requires all employers with 50 or more workers to make sure all their supervisors receive at least two hours of classroom or other type of interactive training once every two years. Although providing sexual harassment training to all employees is a best practice—the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace has strongly recommended that policies and training are put in place—most states do not require private employers to provide such training.


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