10 January 2019

In-house lawyers braced for new gender legislation

Legislators introduce harassment training requirements in 2019 for companies with California employees, push for more women on boards.

In-house lawyers at companies with California employees will need to ensure their leadership enforces required sexual harassment training.

Training in 2019

Companies having over five employees will this year have to provide interactive sexual harassment training to all California-based workers, according to the state’s newly implemented requirements. The state has introduced sweeping legislation in response to the #MeToo movement, sparked by the October 2017 Harvey Weinstein story. In 2018, Governor Brown approved a number of significant pieces of legislation that require action by employers in 2019 which will change how sexual harassment cases are litigated.

Board representation

California enacted Senate Bill 826 to require that by the end of 2019, all publicly held corporations whose principle executive offices are in California have at least one woman on their board of directors. That number will increase on a going-forward basis depending on the size of the board. According to the prelude for Senate Bill 826, ‘one-fourth of California’s public companies … have NO women on their boards of directors; and for the rest of the companies, women hold only 15.5 percent of the board seats.’ Studies cited in the prelude reveal companies with women on their boards have higher average return on equity than companies with no female board members, and companies with women on their boards significantly outperformed others when the recession hit.