New DFEH Guide for Preventing Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation in the Workplace

Fri, 6/23/17
Samantha Pungprakearti

Does your company effectively train employees and management to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation? Until very recently, the legal directive to "take reasonable steps to prevent and correct wrongful (harassing, discriminatory, retaliatory) behavior in the workplace" had no formal requirements that an employer could rely on to ensure they satisfied this duty.

In May 2017, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) issued a guide for California employers that sets out exactly what is expected.  That Guide is available online here and includes step-by-step instructions to help employers get it right.

The Guide includes a helpful list of criteria to create an effective anti-harassment/discrimination/retaliation program:

  1. Have a clear written policy on anti-harassment/discrimination/retaliation and review it routinely (e.g. every six months);
  2. Train all supervisory employees as required by law (for employers with more than 50 employees) to identify, investigate and prevent sexual harassment;
  3. Provide specialized training for those employees who handle harassment/discrimination/retaliation complaints;
  4. Have clear written policies and procedures for investigating complaints;
  5. Ensure prompt, thorough and fair investigations;
  6. Take prompt and fair remedial action; and
  7. Obtain buy-in from the top (management is a role model for appropriate behavior and understands the policies).

The Guide also goes into clear and understandable detail about how to perform adequate investigations of complaints, and how to deal with typical concerns that such complaints can raise, such as how to determine credibility of the person who complains and the person who was complained about.

All employers can benefit from this Guide to: (1) help train their Human Resources staff, (2) ensure that they are in legal compliance, and (3) most importantly, know they are preventing harassment, discrimination or retaliation before it starts.

Please call Samantha Pungprakearti (“poong-pre-ket”) or Dawn Ross with any employment law questions or concerns at (707) 526-4200.

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