January 2, 2020

One in five US employees now lives in a state that requires employers to offer sexual harassment training. For many organizations, these new state laws mean revamping policies, procedures and training to ensure compliance. It’s also an opportunity to implement a more holistic strategy for increasing awareness of harassment and empowering employees with the information and tools they need to effectively address and prevent workplace misconduct.

Here’s a recap of the six states that now require sexual harassment training for employees:

The Workplace Transparency Act goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Under the new law:

  ✓ All Illinois employers, regardless of size, must provide annual sexual harassment training to all employees.
  ✓ Restaurants and bars must have sexual harassment prevention training and policies tailored to the restaurant and bar industry.
  ✓ Training must meet or exceed the standards of the training model of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (not yet available).

Connecticut’s new law, known as the Time’s Up Act, went into effect on October 1, 2019. It  applies to all employers, regardless of the size of their workforce. Under the new law:

  ✓ All Connecticut employers must train supervisors on sexual harassment prevention by October 1, 2020, or within six months of an employee assuming a supervisory role.
  ✓ Organizations with three or more employees must provide two hours of training to all employees, not just supervisors. The previous requirement only applied to employers with 50 or more employees, and mandated that only supervisors be trained.
  ✓ Existing employees must be trained by October 1, 2020, and then be retrained at least every 10 years.

New York
Since October 2019, all New York employers must now provide annual sexual harassment training to all employees and supervisors − including part-time, seasonal and temporary workers, regardless of their immigration status. Another significant change this year is that employees are no longer required to prove that alleged sexual harassment was “severe or pervasive” in order to hold perpetrators and employers accountable. New York requires that:

  ✓ New employees be trained as soon as possible after their start date.
  ✓ All workers receive training, regardless of immigration status, including part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.
  ✓ Training is interactive, requiring some level of employee participation and may be web-based.
  ✓ Employers should provide training in the language spoken by their employees.
  ✓ Employers are encouraged (not required) to keep a copy of training records and a signed acknowledgment that employees have read the organization’s sexual harassment prevention policy.

New York City
NY state’s anti-harassment laws apply to all New York employers, however, New York City organizations with 15 or more employees have additional requirements under the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act. 

For employers with 15 or more employees, NYC requires that:

  ✓ Training cover bystander intervention and retaliation.
  ✓ Training include information on the complaint process available through the NYC Commission  on Human Rights, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the EEOC.  
  ✓ Training records be kept for a minimum of three years.
  ✓ Employees be trained by Dec. 31, 2019.

California continues to be at the forefront of workplace harassment legislation. Senate Bill 1343 requires employers with five or more workers to provide sexual harassment training to all employees by January 1, 2021, and then every two years. 

For employers with five or more employees, the law requires that:

  ✓ Supervisory employees must complete at least two hours of classroom or other interactive training and education on sexual harassment prevention.
  ✓ New supervisors must be trained within six months of assuming a supervisory position.
  ✓ Nonsupervisory employees must complete at least one hour of classroom or interactive training and education and new nonsupervisory employees must be trained within six months.
  ✓ Temporary and seasonal employees – or any employee hired to work less than 6 months – must also be trained within 30 calendar days after their hire date or within 100 hours worked, whichever comes first.
  ✓ Employees and supervisors who were trained in 2019 must be retrained in two years.
  ✓ Employers must keep records of the training for a minimum of two years.

For California hotel and motel employers: A new law requires that employees who are likely to interact with or encounter victims of human trafficking must receive
human trafficking awareness training by January 1, 2020, and then every two years.

Employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide interactive training and education to all employees by December 31, 2019. In addition, for covered employers, the law requires that:

  ✓ All new employees and supervisors must be trained within one year of hire, and then every two years.
  ✓ Supervisors must receive additional training on their responsibilities to prevent and correct sexual harassment and retaliation, and be retrained every two years.
  ✓ All employers, regardless of the size of their workforce, must distribute the Department of Labor’s Sexual Harassment
Notice to each new employee.

Maine requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide training to all employees within one year of hire. In addition, for covered employees, the law requires that:

  ✓ Supervisory and managerial employees must receive additional training on their specific responsibilities to address sexual harassment complaints within one year of their hire or promotion.
  ✓ Employers must keep training records for at least three years and must make the records available for inspection upon request.

Traliant Insight
In 2020, organizations should keep workplace harassment legislation on the radar. To date, six states require employers to regularly train their workforce on sexual harassment prevention and more are likely to follow. While specific requirements may vary from state to state, effective sexual harassment training should be engaging and relevant to a 21st century workforce. Interactive training that focuses on raising awareness, changing behavior and speaking up against misconduct is an important step in promoting a respectful, inclusive workplace culture and reducing the risk of costly harassment claims and reputational damage.