California Sexual Harassment Laws Explained

California has one of the most comprehensive laws when it comes to matters of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment acts are a violation of the Civil rights Act of 1964 and California’s fair employment and housing act. Under California law, offensive conduct is not only limited to motivation of sexual desire. The act (FEHA) defines sexual harassment in terms of sex, which includes; sexual harassment, childbirth and pregnancy harassment, gender harassment, and medical conditions.

As an employer, you need to be aware of the following common sexual harassment scenarios that could result in a lawsuit.

  • If your employee quits the job because he/she cannot withstand working in a hostile work environment. If they resign as a result of this, you might be held responsible.
  • If your employee is denied promotion or fired because he/she said no to sexual favor, if the employee reported the vice, and you retaliate, you are likely to be charged for the offense as an employer.
  • If an employee is exposed to an offensive work environment by being subjected to behaviors that qualify as sexual harassment, you may face a lawsuit as well.

What’s considered as sexual harassment in California?

The relationship between an employee and an employer in regards to sexual harassment complaints and legal action are widely provided for, and violation of the same can result to a lawsuit.

California federal law has provisions for acts associated with quid pro quo acts and a hostile environment. Whether sexually harassed by a supervisor, co-worker, a third party in the workplace, or within the company premises, you are covered by the law.

Below are some vices considered as sexual harassment in California:

  • Trading employment benefits with sexual favors.
  • Verbal sexual exchanges.
  • Unwanted sexual advances.
  • Derogatory comments, jokes, and slurs.
  • Assault, improper touch, and physical conduct.
  • Verbal abuse of a sexual nature. Use of degrading words to describe an individual, sending salacious letters and invitations, verbally commenting about an individual body, etc.

California sexual harassment training laws

The state recognizes the importance of sexual harassment training so on making efforts to curb sexual harassment. In reinforcing it, the state enacted SB 1300 SB 1343 and SB 778 to serve as a guideline to employers on matters of sexual harassment training. Let’s explore these bills in-depth.


The bill is quite comprehensive and covers matters of discrimination, unlawful employment practices, and harassment. It was enacted to serve companies or employers with 50 or more employees.

For starters, with this act, employees are not tied to signing a non – disparagement acts that forbid them from reporting unlawful acts and sexual harassment cases. Additionally, under the statute, bonuses or threats of continued employment cannot be used to bribe employees into signing contracts that bar them from filing for personal injury claims.

The bill protects all employees, including unpaid interns, volunteers, or persons working on contracts in the company. It also shields non-employees against sexual harassment. For example, under this act as an employer, you are responsible for non-employees concerning sexual harassment of employees or other specified personnel. In essence, if the employer or a supervisor is aware of sexual harassment activities from employees to non-employees, and fails to take corrective action, a lawsuit can be filed by the non-employee against the employer.

Inclusive of these, the bill also requires employers to conduct bystanders training to her employee. Therefore, employees are to take up the role of active by- standing in a bid to encourage reporting and reduce cases of sexual harassment.

As a result, all employers are required by federal law to provide two-hour sexual harassment and prevention training to all supervisory employees. It is usually done six months’ after they assume the supervisory position and repeated once every two years.


This sexual harassment law applies to employers who employ or work with five or more employees, both on contract and permanent basis. Under this act, all supervisors are to receive a 2-hours of sexual harassment training. Non-supervisory employees, on the other hand, are to receive one-hour training on the same by January 1, 2020. The training would then be conducted once every two years.


During the month of August 2018, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 778 into law.  This bill was designed to update update sexual harassment training requirement. SB778 new law created two new features.

Complying with California sexual harassment laws

As an employer, it is expected of you to create a work environment that is free from sexual harassment. The first step of complying with the Californian sexual harassment training laws is by creating a sexual harassment policy. The policy should cover the protected categories, complaint reporting, and mechanism, retaliation process, etc. The policy can only become effective if you provide extensive training to your employee’s supervisors and managers.

Final thoughts

Sexual harassment training in California is a requirement by the law. As an employer, it is in your best interest to comply with the training laws and provide the necessary support to your employees. It is also an investment for your company. Sexual harassment training is the foremost practice in averting legal risks that can be associated with the vice in the workplace environment.

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