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Businesses rush to meet requirements for sexual harassment prevention training

Posted at 7:15 PM, Apr 04, 2019

We’re four months into 2019 and one local HR company says several businesses on the Central Coast are actively trying to comply with a new state law.

The law mandates that companies with five employees or more must conduct sexual harassment prevention training. This new law came largely in response to the #MeToo movement. The state is now looking to ensure everyone feels comfortable in the workplace.

Things have been busy for people like Lynn Fernbaugh and her co-workers at Your People Professionals.

“We’re starting to get panicky calls, people realizing they have to get this done before January 1st and wondering how they’re going to get it scheduled in time especially if they want live and in-person training because you have to bring someone in who is qualified to do the training,” Fernbaugh said.

Starting this year, a new state law mandates employers with five employees or more be trained on sexual harassment prevention by the end of the year. Part-time, temporary and even independent contractors are included in that employee count. This training is required within six months of someone starting their job and every two years afterward.

“We’ve been doing training since the first mandatory training was passed through for supervisors only for large companies and we continue to see harassment claims and issues so I believe it is important for companies to do that,” Fernbaugh said.

Santa Maria businesses like Cool Hand Luke’s say they’ve already been doing this type of training with their managers. They say they haven’t done the new state training yet but look forward to continuing to ensure all of their employees feel comfortable at work.

“I just hope that it does help someone even outside of work, if they’re somewhere else, they’re trained to know the signs of harassment on all levels so that they can protect themselves – even if something happens outside of work they can come talk to us,” General Manager of Cool Hand Luke’s Shelley McKinney said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Community Bank of Santa Maria. They plan on doing the prevention training provided by their insurance.

But CEO Janet Silveria questions how the state will uniformly ensure this training is happening.

“Because there’s so many options on how you can complete the training, getting consistent method that’s verifiable to make sure that everyone did take the training could be a challenge for the state,” Silveria said.

Your People Professionals says spots for their training are filling up quickly so it’s better not to wait till later this year to try to get it done.

While the new law makes the training mandatory, it’s still unclear how the state would punish employers who don’t do it.

The Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce is hosting a training session for chamber members on April 14.