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California's New Mandatory Harassment Training Law (AB 1825): Avoiding the Most Common Legal Landmines & Best Practices for Compliance

by Littler Mendelson, the nation's largest and most experienced law firm on 8/16/2005
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False Statement: Any Training Will Qualify As Long As It's Classroom Instruction.

This is a double landmine. AB 1825 mandates that the training be of high quality and presented by "trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise" in preventing harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. If classroom instruction is used, the qualifications of the trainers must be established. Train-the-trainer programs may be appropriate, but the actual instructors still need to meet the knowledge and expertise requirements. Accordingly, HR professionals and employment attorneys are highly recommended as trainers. If your organization is in doubt, it should consult qualified legal counsel to review the planned program. Articles on AB 1825 may be informative, but they are not a substitute for proper legal advice.

The second part of this landmine is the false assumption that the training must be in a classroom and live. The statute was explicitly written to include "other effective interactive" instruction that meets the required quality standard. Shockingly, many organizations initially failed to understand that interactive online instruction qualified. Assembly Member Sarah Reyes, who authored AB 1825, recently commented publicly that quality interactive online training clearly qualifies and expressed surprise that she is so often questioned about the adequacy of e-learning. (The Littler Mendelson National Employer Program, March 31, 2005, presented in Phoenix, Arizona.)

Such online instruction is also a highly effective way of tracking who is enrolled in training and documenting completion. It is now recognized that some of the most effective training in the world is provided online, demanding the involvement of the learner every few seconds. Meanwhile, video or web-based programs that are not interactive, can quickly fall into the "show and go" category. This is neither what the Legislature intended to require, nor does it have the positive impact of a well-designed live or online learning program. Gone are the days of meeting the training requirement by putting an "x" in the box.

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