Assemblymembers McCarty, Gonzalez Join Women’s Organizations to Announce Local Government Training Measure

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bill requires all local elected officials to complete sexual harassment prevention training, closing existing loophole

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Today, Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) announced legislation which would require all local elected officials to take the same sexual harassment prevention training required of city staff and state legislative bodies.

"Elected officials have a higher bar as supervisors to understand the laws that protect their employees and to ensure their workplaces are free from sexual harassment," noted Assemblywoman Gonzalez, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, "This starts with guaranteeing they receive the necessary training to keep workers safe."

"This is no different than what is required of members of the Legislature, it's a simple requirement that puts all cities and counties on the same legal footing," said Assemblymember McCarty, "For too long valuable taxpayer dollars have been used to settle harassment cases – dollars that could have been better spent providing additional police, fire, or parks services."

"Because sexual harassment remains a concern for employees across the state, in public and private sector workplaces, Assemblymember McCarty's bill is necessary to ensure that all local elected officials are aware of and follow guidelines necessary to keep workers safe. Betsy Butler, Executive Director of California Women's Law Center, stated, "Although the Legislature has previously enacted laws addressing sexual harassment prevention training for local elected officials, this requirement has unfortunately not been explicitly outlined or consistently followed. This bill makes training mandatory. The California Women's Law Center sees the destructive results of sexual harassment on a regular basis and we know its costs. All employees, whether they work at a private business or in city government, should go to work each day knowing they will be safe and able to work without being harassed and employers should want no less for their employees. This bill will help achieve both of these important goals."

Michelle Pariset, co-founder of a local group committed to raising awareness of unhealthy workplaces for women, wrote in support, "The Sacramento Collective for Women's Rights is excited about the proposed legislation making sexual harassment training for local elected officials mandatory. It's a loophole that needs to be fixed. We extend our gratitude and thanks to Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty and Lorena Gonzalez for their vision and leadership."

The bill would clarify that city council members must complete sexual harassment training, just like any other city employee. This training must be completed within a six month period of assuming office for city councilmembers and must be repeated every two years to ensure councilmembers are current. This is reflective of current law, enacted through AB 1825 (2004), which established requirements for sexual harassment training in the workplace.

However, existing law does not explicitly require city elected officials to attend sexual harassment training. Some cities have interpreted this to mean that it does not apply to city council members, while some cities have found that it does. Sacramento City Attorney James Sanchez noted in a memo to Sacramento City Council in November 2013, that "elected officials are not generally considered employees of the city and therefore are not required to complete the training." It continued, "This office strongly recommends that all elected officials receive the training required under AB 1825." Clearly, there is legal confusion between jurisdictions. The cost to cities to litigate and/or settle claims for sexual harassment can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is a significant loss of city revenues needed to provide essential services to constituents.

The bill will be formally introduced in January, 2016, and will be eligible for hearing in spring.

CONTACT: Alex Harold, (916) 319-2007