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AS OF JANUARY 1, 2021, EMPLOYERS ARE OBLIGATED
TO REPORT TO THE POLICE ANY ACTUAL OR SUSPECTED ABUSE OR NEGLECT OF
MINOR EMPLOYEES WITHIN 36 HOURS

By: Lisa Chapman, Esq.

One of the many new California employment related laws which went into effect on January 1, 2021 expands the obligation to report sexual abuse or neglect of children to include certain private employers.  “Mandatory Reporters” are individuals whenever they, in their professional capacity or within the scope of their employment, learn about or suspect that a minor has been the victim of sexual abuse or neglect.  Historically the mandatory reporting requirement was generally limited to health care providers and individuals involved in the education field.  A failure to comply with this obligation is a crime. The duty to report is not limited to abuse or neglect which took place at work and includes abuse or neglect which occurred at home or elsewhere.

“Sexual abuse” is defined as sexual assault or exploitation. Among other things this includes sexual harassment, sexual activity or contact, intentional touching, and copying pornography involving minors. “Neglect” is defined as treating a child in a manner which could harm the child’s health or welfare, such failing to provide shelter or food or causing injury.

This new law expands the list of individuals subject to mandatory reporting to include certain employees of businesses which have five or more employees.  This includes human resource employees and adults whose duties require direct contact with and supervision of minors in the performance of the minors’ duties in the workplace. The new law also obligates affected businesses to provide training about child abuse and neglect identification and neglect reporting.  The training obligation may be satisfied by completing general online training offered by the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in the California Dept. of Social Services.

The statute is broadly written to potentially require mandatory reporting concerning contractors and interns.  As such, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in the future and internships are more prevalent, it is likely that more businesses will be subject to this new law.

A failure to comply with this new law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of confinement in a county jail or a fine of $1,000, or both.

The following are recommended suggestions for businesses with over five employees:

(i) Training.  Schedule online training as soon as possible and require employees who meet the description above to participate.

(ii) Documentation of compliance with training requirement.  While you do not have a mandatory obligation to keep detailed written records related to your compliance with mandatory training requirements, we recommend that you do so.  In the unlikely event of future litigation these records would help to establish that you have satisfied necessary legal requirements.

(iii) Employee Handbook Amendment.  Amend your employee handbook or at least create a Company policy to explain this new mandatory reporting requirement.

(iv) Protocols for HR Department and Supervisors.  Create or obtain written protocols which establish policies and procedures related to compliance with the new law.

(v) “Hotline.”  Consider making available a “hotline” email or telephone number which employees can use to report actual or suspected child abuse.

(vi) Background Checks.  Consider implementing background checks for all new or returning employees, and/or existing employees subject to state laws which govern such background checks.  The purpose of this is to ensure that you do not hire sexual offenders who might be put in proximity with workers who are minors.

If you have any comments or questions please contact Lisa Chapman, Esq. at lchapman@strategylaw.com

 

This blog is written as of January 25, 2021. Recommendations and legal requirements are changing rapidly, so please continue to review our legal updates or review postings on relevant government websites. 

All blogs on this site are for educational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice or opinion, and should not be applied to your situation, or any specific situation, without consultation with counsel. Strategy Law, LLP does not provide any legal advice concerning any matter discussed in a blog except upon formal engagement including, without limitation, execution of Strategy Law, LLP’s formal legal services agreement, and with respect to specific factual situations.  No blog constitutes a guaranty, warranty, or prediction regarding the result of any legal matter discussed in the blog or any representation.

 

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