A number of California state agencies have failed to provide sexual harassment training for all their supervisors as required by state law, an investigation published Tuesday found.
Capital Public Radio’s investigation found nearly 60 percent of agencies surveyed by the State Personnel Board did not provide the training, up from 25 percent in 2016 and 32 percent in 2017.
Some larger agencies, like the Department of Corrections, failed to train hundreds of supervisors, while several smaller ones didn’t train any, the investigation found.
Since 2016, the State Personnel Board has identified nearly 1,800 state government supervisors at dozens of agencies who did not receive the required training, the radio station reported.
A state law requires businesses with 50 or more workers and all state agencies to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to new supervisors within six months of being hired or promoted. Existing supervisors must receive follow-up training every two years.
Suzanne Ambrose, executive officer of the State Personnel Board, said the noncompliance exposes the state to liability and can create hostile work environments.
“Supervisors who aren’t aware of those requirements or don’t know how to identify sexual harassment — we can assume they’re not in there proactively addressing it,” she said.
There is no central database for monitoring sexual harassment complaints across California government agencies. That makes it difficult to evaluate if a correlation exists between a lack of supervisor training and higher rates of sexual harassment complaints.
Some of the most expensive sexual harassment settlements in recent years involved agencies that failed to train supervisors.
Between 2014 and 2017, the state paid more than $25 million to settle sexual harassment claims, according to a report by The Sacramento Bee . Of the 10 most expensive, seven involved agencies that did not provide supervisor training, according to State Personnel Board records.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which is responsible for enforcing the sexual-harassment training law for public and private employers, has never issued a violation order against a state agency.
Director Kevin Kish said his department lacks an effective mechanism to enforce compliance and it normally hears about the lack of training until a state worker files a sexual harassment complaint.
“You have an enforcement model where basically people are not incentivized . to comply up front,” Kish said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration says it has taken notice and expects all agencies to be at or near full compliance with the training requirements by July. The state Government Operations Agency has been tasked to oversee the effort, Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Newsom, wrote in an email.
“Top administration leaders communicated directly to agency secretaries and undersecretaries that these trainings must be completed and that all departments must come into compliance,” Ferguson wrote.