Guidelines for California Sexual Harassment Law Raises Some Confusion

Me Too and other associated movements have brought significant light to instances of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry. Substantive charges like those levied against producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey have turned a scrutinizing eye towards the protection of entertainment workers. Given how centralized the film industry is in Los Angeles, it may come as no surprising that departing Governor Jerry Brown of California has taken measures to protect younger entertainers working in film, TV, and other associated industries.

A law signed by Governor Brown, identified as AB 2338, includes provisions that require all minors – aged between 14 and 17 years of age – to receive sexual harassment prevention training before being provided with an entertainment work permit. The work permits, which are issued by the California Labor Commissioner, will also be denied if the parents or guardians of minors can’t demonstrate they’ve received the proper training as well. The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement has released parameters for enforcing the new law, but some feel that there are ambiguities that need addressing.

Three points of contention have been identified as requiring clarity or revision. The first is that minor workers are exempt from training if they’re only applying for ten day work permits. The second concern is the guidance for 13 year olds scheduled for their next birthday while they’re covered by an existing work permit. They may either apply for a permit that expires on their 14th birthday rather than extends for the full six months, or they may preemptively provide proof of sexual harassment training as long as they’re older than 13 years and six months in age. Both of these concerns raise questions about the effectiveness of the law in regards to these issues, since it could leave youth in these two groups vulnerable to sexual harassment. The complexity of the rules for applicants on the cusp of age could also make the standards of the law more complex to enforce than necessary.

The final point of contention is in regards to a lack of resources to properly enforce the new restrictions. The DSLE requires that all training meet the minimum requirements outlined by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. in DFEH Form 185. Such training can only be provided by third-party vendors, but there appears to be a shortage of such vendors, and there is still a lack of clarity regarding what vendors are approved and what the designated length of such trainings be.

There’s time to resolve the issue. Despite being put into effect at the beginning of the year, the Commissioner will not begin enforcement of the law until June 30. Regardless, some measures may have to be taken to ensure that the law can be properly implemented.

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