Sexual harassment and workplace discrimination allegations have seen a surge in all across the country, renewing the #metoo movement. California breweries were not exempt from this uptick in cases as brewery professionals, from CEOs to employees, were hit with allegations. Given this rise, it is important, now more than ever, to ensure that breweries have the proper policies in place to protect their businesses from sexual harassment claims.

Rise of Sexual Harassment Claims in Breweries

On May 11, 2021, women in the brewery industry started sharing their experiences of workplace mistreatment: abuse, racism, and sexism. The number of brewery-related sexual harassment allegations that came out within that week soared up to near 1,000, with a number of women and people of color speaking out. What followed was a wave of leadership termination, company reorganizations, and lawsuits.

Although employers generally cannot be sued for the stress they cause an employee, they can be sued for creating a “hostile work environment” if the employer’s conduct that caused the stress was due to the employee’s race, gender, national origin, religion, or other protected characteristics. In addition, the State of California has passed Assembly Bill 2053 (AB2053), which requires employers to provide training on workplace bullying, and updated sexual harassment training regulations via Senate Bill 1343 (SB1343).

How to Protect Your Business as a Brewery Owner

With brewery sexual harassment cases on the rise, employers of California breweries must make sure to stay on top of their operations and policies. This includes:

Taking Everything Seriously

When a sexual harassment allegation or workplace misconduct case arises, employers need to take the claim seriously. Do not brush allegations off or hesitate. Employers should take immediate action and launch an in-depth investigation to look into each and every detail of the claim. The investigation will need to interview both sides of the claim, in addition to any witnesses, in order to make sure all the facts are fully understood and accounted for. And if the allegations are true, employers must take full responsibility. Importantly, do not retaliate against an employee who makes a claim. Even if the claim is found to be untrue, taking actions against the employee that appear to be retaliatory will open you up to liability. Keep in mind that a good best practice is to bring on and consult an employment attorney to safely guide you through the investigation process.

Staying Up to Date on Sexual Harassment Training

Earlier this year, California legislators updated sexual harassment training regulations through SB1343. To stay compliant, employers with 5 or more employees must provide their supervisory workers with at least 2 hours of anti-sexual harassment, and their non-supervisory workers with at least 1 hour of anti-sexual harassment training every two years. In fact, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) offers a free anti-sexual harassment training course that is accessible on any computer or mobile device. In addition, employers must provide their workers with informational posters of anti-sexual harassment, which can be found on the DFEH website. Employers should consider implementing additional sexual harassment training in their breweries, including bystander training and enhanced anti-sexual harassment training, as well to make sure each employee knows how to handle unexpected situations.

Improving Internal HR Communications

Human Resources (HR) is one of the most essential departments in a business. Employers must make sure that their HR department is well-versed in receiving sexual harassment and workplace misconduct cases. In order to facilitate open conversations surrounding workplace misconduct, the HR department must be able to communicate as clearly and specifically as possible to reduce the chance of misunderstandings and disputes. Additionally, HR departments should develop and implement regular workshops and seminars to continually train and educate the team. If you are a small business with no HR department, think about outsourcing to an external HR firm.

Taking Proactive Steps to Bring in External Parties

Whether or not your business has a working HR department in place, take proactive steps and bring on external parties to implement new reporting policies and systems. A third party can not only pinpoint areas in your breweries that need to be improved or addressed in a non-biased manner but they can also provide a safe space for your employees. You can bring in third parties to implement a confidential harassment reporting system, create a task force, or develop an anonymous employee reporting platform, all allowing employees to report any harassment or complaints in a safe space.

We’re Here to Help Breweries

Times are changing, and brewery owners in California must take this time to reflect on their current policies and practices to make sure that they are generating a safe and healthy work environment for each and every one of their employees. Moving forward, employers need to take the extra step to create a safe environment wherein employees feel safe and protected whenever reporting any allegations.

If you need assistance with sexual harassment lawsuits or workplace misconduct, please don’t hesitate to contact Hackler Flynn & Associates.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

Your html code will go here