Almost one year ago, the #MeToo Movement took us by storm when men and women across the country began speaking out about their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. Countless lawsuits have been filed, hundreds of stories have been told, and multiple public figures have been brought down since the #MeToo Movement’s rise on social and public media. In the midst of all of the controversy, many state legislatures and state agencies have taken affirmative steps toward minimizing sexual harassment in the workplace.
For instance, on August 29, 2018, Delaware joined Connecticut and three other states when it adopted a law requiring covered employers to train their employees in sexual harassment prevention. Basically, the law introduces a mandate on employers with 50 or more employees to train all employees–supervisors or not–in sexual harassment prevention. The law institutes broad protections, and lumps in unpaid interns, applicants, and apprentices into the definition of an “employee.” In addition, the new legislation obligates employers with four or more employees to issue an information sheet on sexual harassment prevention to their employees. The law will become effective on January 9, 2018.
New York has also beefed up its protections against sexual harassment. Effective October 9, 2018, New York employers will all be required to adopt a policy against sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers have two options: they can (1) adopt a model policy issued by the state or (2) adopt their own policy that either meets or exceeds the standards set forth in the model policy. Recently, the New York State Division of Human Rights, a state agency that enforces the state’s discrimination laws, issued draft guidance on mandatory sexual harassment prevention policies and training to assist employers in their compliance with the new law.
In the most recent legislative session, Connecticut had also introduced a bill that increased sexual harassment prevention training requirements and broadened other areas of Connecticut’s discrimination law. However, the General Assembly failed to give final approval, and the bill ultimately died. Should Connecticut employers prepare themselves for the introduction of more draft legislation increasing protections against sexual harassment? Only time will tell. In the meantime, Connecticut employers should continue to comply with the current state law and make sure to promote an environment and culture that does not welcome sexual harassment.