Jul 7

By Elizabeth Johnson

California Training Law Protects Vulnerable Workers and your Business

A new California law requiring businesses to train all employees in preventing sexual harassment has the potential to make your organization more productive and more profitable.

“Training isn’t meant to be punitive,” said Amy Oppenheimer, a California attorney with more than 30 years of experience in employment law. “It’s meant to be something that is helpful to the work environment. The employers are going to get something useful out of it and their employees are going to get something useful out of it.”

California legislation is designed to protect workers and businesses.

Don’t wait until California’s January 1, 2020 deadline is upon you.

SB-1343 mandates that all California employers who have five or more employees must provide non-supervisory employees with sexual harassment prevention training by January 1, 2020. The training must be at least one hour and, among other things, teach employees how to report incidents of sexual harassment. This new California legislation is in addition to AB-1825, mandating supervisor sexual harassment prevention training in California businesses.

“The first instinct of many employers is to ask why they would want to do something that will lead to more complaints,” said Oppenheimer, who serves as chair of the Labor and Employment Section of the State Bar of California. “’Wouldn’t it be better to just ‘let sleeping dogs lie?’ But the point of the training is getting people to tell you what is going on sooner so you can do something about it rather than wait until it is serious. If you hire someone to let you know the condition of the foundation of your house, you don’t want to turn a blind eye and say ‘only give me good news and then your house falls apart’.”

Hospitality industry employees are vulnerable to harassment.

Oppenheimer said that studies have shown there is a fair amount of sexual harassment in the hospitality environment. This occurs for many reasons, including that people are often working in areas isolated from public view, which may make it easier for people to get away with inappropriate behavior, for example, a housekeeper in a guest room.

Other hospitality employees may feel they need to put up with harassing behavior because “the guest is always right” so they don’t make waves and possibly jeopardize their jobs. By training those vulnerable employees, you are more likely to prevent sexual harassment incidents because you are teaching them early on what is appropriate and what isn’t, as well as how to speak out effectively when something happens.

Harassment is “bad for everybody—it’s bad for employees, but it’s bad for employers too. It impacts productivity, it affects how people view your organization, it impacts turnover. You have to hire and train more people,” said Oppenheimer. “Early prevention is the best way to combat that.”

Training is designed by the hospitality industry for the hospitality industry.

Sexual Harassment Prevention for the Hospitality Industry, California Employee Edition satisfies requirements for nonsupervisory employee sexual harassment prevention training as legislated in SB 1343.

Because hospitality businesses have unique needs, the National Restaurant Association and AHLEI have developed a sexual harassment prevention training course specifically for those working in hospitality. While there are generic training programs out there, ServSafe Workplace’s Sexual Harassment Prevention in the Hospitality Industry-California online courses ensure that the training is relevant to your work environment.

“They’re going to get a lot better product if they do go with something that is more nuanced, more understanding of their work environment than something that just allows them to check the box,” said Oppenheimer. “So be a good consumer and find a training program that you’re going to get value out of. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but it has to be the most relevant.”

The ServSafe Workplace course for employees is one hour long per California state requirements and features learning and scenarios specific to the hospitality industry. The course is aligned with the California-specific version of Sexual Harassment Prevention in the Hospitality Industry, Manager Edition. The course includes information to help bystanders—those who may witness sexual harassment—to respond appropriately and effectively to inappropriate workplace behavior.

More importantly, it is part of the National Restaurant Association’s commitment to you and to furthering the conversation post #metoo. These training programs help you and the industry promote a culture of inclusivity and respect—and show your authentic commitment to preventing sexual harassment in your establishment.

Don’t wait until California’s January 1, 2020 deadline is upon you. Take the first step to bring Sexual Harassment Prevention in the Hospitality Industry-California to your business and start scheduling your employees so you’ll be prepared—and your workplace will be a safer one.