The State Worker

Sexual harassment training ordered for California government secretaries, leaders

Why new sexual misconduct policy is a culture shift for California Legislature

Sen. Holly Mitchell and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman explain why the new sexual harassment policy they’ve developed is a big change for the Legislature.
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Sen. Holly Mitchell and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman explain why the new sexual harassment policy they’ve developed is a big change for the Legislature.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is convening state government executives next month to encourage them to make their offices “more respectful, diverse and equitable,” according to a letter from his administration.

The Aug. 12 forum for agency secretaries and department directors comes as the administration works to meet a January deadline to train all state employees on sexual harassment, a requirement the Legislature imposed after the #MeToo movement reached California state government two years ago.

The state’s cabinet-level agencies had trained their managers and supervisors by mid-July, but not all department-level managers have been trained, Governor’s Office spokeswoman Vicky Waters said in an email.

The law, signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in September, also requires state employees who aren’t managers to receive harassment training by January.

“The Governor’s Office receives frequent updates on progress made toward this goal, and has and will continue to be in communication with cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries on this issue,” Waters said in the email.

In 2018, the State Personnel Board reported that 10 of 17 departments it surveyed weren’t in compliance with an older state requirement that all departments train managers and supervisors on sexual harassment. Capitol Public Radio recently reported lax enforcement of the training requirement over the years.

The Sacramento Bee last year found the state paid more than $25 million to resolve sexual harassment lawsuits over a three-year window, and that the state had no system to track employees accused of sexual harassment as they moved to various departments in their careers.

Brown last year directed the Government Operations Agency to create a system that would track complaints, but the program is behind schedule.

The August forum, titled “California Leads as an Employer,” was scheduled to “help ensure that we are living up to our principles and creating concrete action plans” to uphold public trust and act as a model employer in the state, according to a July 17 letter Newsom chief of staff Ann O’Leary sent state leaders.

Among the topics of focus at the four-hour forum will be gender and racial pay equity, nondiscrimination principles, values of inclusion and “confirming that sexual, racial and disability-based harassment are unacceptable,” according to the letter.

Also discussed will be CalHR’s tool to track harassment and discrimination complaints across state government, which the department plans to launch in January — a year later than Brown originally planned.

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