As of this month, all state departments in California are required to track all claims of sexual harassment. Now, they will be able to do so using a single streamlined system managed by the California Department of Human Resources.
The system was proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 following an investigation by The Sacramento Bee revealing the state spent $25 million over the course of three years to settle sexual harassment lawsuits against state employees. In many cases, offenders kept their jobs, despite repeated complaints and even as victims were forced to resign and be subject to no rehire clauses if they settled their civil cases. (No rehire clauses are now outlawed thanks to the passage of AB 749 last fall.)
The data tracker went live on Jan. 1, 2020 and cost $1.5 million to launch. Before this, the state had no uniform way of tracking allegations of sexual harassment across its 150+ departments.
The state’s human resources division created the software and started training employees on it months ago. That agency will have full access to the system from all departments that enter information, so they will be able to see:
- Names of persons under investigation for sexual harassment;
- Updates on sexual harassment cases as they progress;
- Outcomes of each sexual harassment case, including settlement agreements and payments.
Officials say that doing so will allow departments that have historically had a pattern of problems with sexual harassment to be more accountable and repeat offenders will be more quickly identified and appropriate action taken.
This isn’t the first time the state has tracked sexual harassment within its own ranks. There was another system the state used to track and monitor not just complaints of sexual harassment but other forms of discrimination. However, it was axed eight years ago amid broader budget cuts, when it appears to have gotten lost in the shuffle when the consolidated the human resources division. But that meant when the #MeToo movement exploded, officials in California had no reliable data about sexual harassment in government.
The state’s human resources director said the fact that officials could contribute nothing to the discussion about the scope of sexual harassment issues when the topic became a top public concern was the driving force in creating a new system. In a December 2017 report, the director at the time notified the governor that without a tracking system that details these complaints, there was no way for the department to recommend proactive measures necessary to address workplace sexual harassment.
A complaint tracking system was re-launched in 2018, but there were a number of delays and setbacks.
Now that the system is in place, the state will also be able to better to ascertain which departments are in compliance with state rules to train supervisors in sexual harassment prevention, as required by law. An investigation by CapRadio earlier this year revealed dozens of state agencies had failed to train some 1,800 of its supervisory staff. Noncompliance on this front has the potential to allow a hostile work environment to fester, and it further exposes the state to greater liability in the event of a California sexual harassment lawsuit.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949-375-4734.
California Is Tracking Sexual Harassment Complaints For The First Time Since 2012, Jan. 30, 2020, CapRadio