Client Alert: California Mandates Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Local Officials

On September 29, 2016, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 1661 into law, which requires local agency officials to receive sexual harassment prevention training every two (2) years.

Who is Required to Receive Sexual Harassment Prevention Training?

AB 1661 requires local agencies that provide any type of compensation, salary, or stipend to a local agency official to require all of the local agency’s officials to receive sexual harassment prevention training. Local agency officials include any member of a local agency legislative body and any elected local agency official.

Currently, under Government Code section 12950.1, all supervisory employees are mandated to receive two (2) hours of sexual harassment prevention training every two (2) years. Now, AB 1661 permits, but does not require, the local agency to mandate sexual harassment prevention training and education for all of its employees.

The language of AB 1661 does not clarify the definition of “member of a local agency legislative body,” bringing into question whether appointed positions or standing committee members are subject to this bill. Legislative history indicates that this bill is specifically concerned with elected officials, city councils, and the “governing body” of cities, counties, charter cities, charter counties, and special districts. However, Government Code section 54952, for the purposes of the Brown Act, has defined “legislative body” to include: (1) governing bodies, such as city councils, boards of supervisors, and boards of trustees of special districts; (2) commissions, committees, boards, or other bodies of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body; and (3) standing committees which have a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body, or have continuing subject matter jurisdiction. Therefore, local agencies should plan to implement training for commissions, committees, boards, and standing committees along with other elected positions.

Training Timeline

Each local agency official or employee required to attend sexual harassment prevention training, must receive at least two (2) hours of training within the first six (6) months of taking office or starting employment. The official or employee must undergo training every two (2) years thereafter. If the official serves more than one (1) local agency, the official is only required to meet this requirement once, and then every two (2) years thereafter.

Contents of the Training

The training must include information and practical guidance regarding the federal and state statutory provisions concerning the prohibition against, and the prevention and correction of, sexual harassment. The sexual harassment prevention training must also include the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment in the work place. The practical examples in the training must be aimed at instructing local agency officials and employees how to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Local agencies are permitted to include local sexual harassment prevention training and education policies in the training.

The training must be developed in consultation with the city attorney or county counsel to ensure that the content of the training is sufficient and accurate. Only trainers and educators with knowledge and expertise in the prevention of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation may present the training.

In the alternative, a local agency or association of local agencies may also offer one or more training courses, or sets of self-study materials with tests, to meet the requirements of AB 1661. These courses may be taken at home, in person, or online.

Action Plan

Local agencies should arrange for sexual harassment prevention training in preparation for incoming and existing local agency officials.  AB 1661 goes into effect January 1, 2017.  Agencies should consider coordinating sexual harassment prevention training with AB 1234 ethics training for local officials.

Churchwell White LLP offers sexual harassment prevention training to local agencies throughout California. Please contact Doug White at (916) 468-0947, doug@churchwellwhite.com; Nubia Goldstein at (916) 468-0946, nubia@churchwellwhite.com; or Helane Seikaly at (916) 458-4963, helane@churchwellwhite.com if your agency is interested in our sexual harassment prevention training for your local officials, supervisory employees, and employees.