This guide also complies with the new Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) regulations on workplace harassment that went into effect in 2016. These regulations, available here, which required employers to distribute the DFEH- 185 brochure (available here) on sexual harassment to employees, now also require employers to prepare and distribute written anti-discrimination and harassment policies to all employees via hard copy, email, or the company intranet site, with an acknowledgment for for employees to sign, or by discussing the policy with a new employee upon hire or during a new hire orientation session. The written policy must list all the protected characteristics of individuals on which basis it is unlawful to discriminate or harass: race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age for individuals over forty years of age, military and veteran status, and sexual orientation.
Among other requirements, the new regulations also require employers to create an internal complaint process to ensure that complaints of harassment receive: (a) confidential treatment, to the extent possible; (b) timely responses; (c) timely and impartial investigations by qualified personnel; (d) documentation and tracking of progress; (e) appropriate remedial actions; and (f) timely closure. Notably, the regulations also mandate the employer to provide a complaint mechanism that enables an employee to complain to someone other than his or her immediate supervisor, such as a human resources manager, EEO officer, other designated company representative, or complaint hotline. The employer’s policy must clarify that employee will not be subjected to retaliation as a result of lodging a complaint or participating in an investigation. Furthermore, employers must translate and issue their anti-discrimination and harassment policies in each non-English language spoken by at least 10 percent of the workforce at any facility.
If they have not already done so, employers must review and update their anti-discrimination and harassment policies in light of California’s new regulations, distribute their policies (and the DFEH- 185 brochure), ensure proper complaint and investigation procedures are in place, and train their supervisors and human resources personnel on how to respond to complaints.