Are You Ready for the New Laws Requiring Sexual Harassment Training?

The #MeToo movement brought the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront. While claims of sexual harassment in the workplace are not new, the focus on this issue increases employers’ potential risk for complaints and related liabilities. In response, many states have enacted new laws meant to combat workplace harassment. Several states have imposed a requirement to provide training for employees on preventing sexual harassment and discrimination, and the deadline to provide the training is rapidly approaching.

New York employers must train all employees by October 9, 2019, even if a company has just a single employee. Training must be provided to employees based outside of New York who spend a “portion of their time” in the State. After the initial training, employers are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis. The New York law specifies what must be included in the training, including an explanation of sexual harassment, examples of prohibited conduct, a summary of state and federal laws regarding sexual harassment, a summary of rights and remedies available to employees and a summary of the employer’s responsibilities with respect to preventing and investigating allegations of sexual harassment. Failure to provide this required training would result in financial penalties. For employers in New York City there are additional training requirements. The City law applies only to employers with 15 or more employees, but independent contractors must be counted to see if there are 15 employees.

New York is not the only state to mandate sexual harassment training. California expanded its training requirement to cover employers with at least 5 employees, from the previous 50 employees. Temporary and seasonal employees must be included in the count. Under the law, employers in California must administer at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory personnel and at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all non-supervisory personnel. The initial training must be provided by January 1, 2020.

In Delaware, employers with 4 or more employees are required to issue an information sheet on sexual harassment. It also requires larger employers with 50 or more employees to provide sexual-harassment training for all employees and supervisors. The training must be conducted for new employees within one year of the commencement of their employment. Existing employees must receive sexual-harassment training by Jan. 1, 2020. New supervisors must receive additional interactive training within one year of the commencement of their employment in a supervisory role.

Beginning on October 1, 2019, Connecticut employers with 3 or more employees must provide two hours of sexual harassment training. All supervisors must be trained regardless the number of employees. All current employees must be trained by October 1, 2020. New employees hired after October 1, 2019 must be trained within six months of hire.

The Maine’s state law requires employers with 15 or more employees in the workplace to provide sexual harassment training to all employees. This training requirement has been in place for a number of years. The new law, however, now requires Maine employers to use a checklist prepared by the Maine Department of Labor to develop their sexual harassment training programs.

Illinois also passed a new law requiring employers to hold annual sexual harassment training for all employees. The law lists the topics that must be covered in the training. Under the law, the state will to produce a model sexual harassment training program. Employers are required to provide the training within 30 days of an employee’s employment, and every two years thereafter.

A number of other states recommend, but do not mandate, training programs. Whether or not required by law, it is recommended that all employers provide harassment training. Having an anti-harassment and training program can help minimize risks and potential liability.

The Fourth Quarter 2017 issue of Premier Flooring Dealer included an article entitled “Are You Prepared to Deal with Workplace Sexual Harassment in the #MeToo Era?” The article provides in depth suggestions on what the flooring retailer and contractor should do to minimize the risk of sexual harassment in their facilities. Given that the different states may have different requirements and definitions of what is harassment, flooring contractors, retailers, and installers should consult with competent legal counsel to ensure they meet all state mandates.

Notice: The information contained in this article is abridged from legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.


Friday, August 16, 2019