Note: This post was updated August 21, 2017 to reflect amendments to the bill.
Earlier this year, California Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, introduced AB 1700 which seeks to amend the Business and Professions Code. The original intent of the bill was to increase the cannabis worker’s knowledge on basic environmental and safety precautions, and sexual harassment and discrimination protections. The July 2017 draft of the bill focuses more on safety than sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training. The bill applies to an applicant for a state license under California’s cannabis regulations. Assuming there is no collective bargaining agreement, the applicant must provide a statement that the applicant employs, or will employ within one year of receiving a license, an employee who has successfully completed a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) 10-hour general industry course.
The bill first proposed a 30-hour Cal-OSHA course to address sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training to improve industry concerns uncovered by the national media and local press that revealed widespread “instances of sexual abuse and human trafficking in every aspect of the marijuana economic supply chain.” Simply stated, the goal of AB 1700 is to increase cannabis worker safety knowledge and compliance which legislators believe can be accomplished through a 10-hour federal OSHA general industry course.
One concern pertaining to this bill is that this one “trained employee” would have no responsibility to train others within the company. In addition, this person would not necessarily benefit from the majority of the safety training offered in the 10-hour course, unless he or she happens to work in certain sectors of cannabis manufacturing or distribution.
One of the policy recommendations is to make the bill more narrowly tailored to require more appropriate training to the exact nature of the employee’s responsibilities. Another recommendation is to expand the scope to either require some percentage of all licensee’s employees to take such a course or to require a supervisor-level course be taken by supervisors who are responsible for enforcing workplace conditions.
Other Laws Aimed to Prevent Harassment in the Workplace
Note that the current version of AB 1700 does not include any requirements specific to sexual harassment and discrimination prevention. However, California law already requires employers in all industries to take affirmative, reasonable steps to prevent and correct discriminatory and harassing conduct. For example, AB 1825 requires a supervisor to provide at least 2 hours of training regarding sexual harassment once every two years. For more information regarding your obligations as a California employer, visit the Fair Employment and Housing Act’s(FEHA) website and download the DFEH-185 brochure on sexual harassment.