by Renee Mielnicki, Esquire
As we all know, sexual harassment has taken the stage this past year in the HR world. I remember saying not long before it became such a hot topic that I wasn’t seeing as many claims relating to the subject. My thought was maybe employers had finally mastered how to deal with it and employees had maybe fallen in line with the law. Turns out I was wrong and the reason it wasn’t coming up so much was because either employers were hiding it or employees were afraid to say anything. It took only one or two brave souls to step out into the limelight and then the flood gates opened to the point of the #MeToo movement.
The government has clearly taken notice of the problem and some state legislators are doing something preventative about it. Following suit with several other states, last week Connecticut’s General Assembly voted on a law that would require employers to provide sexual harassment training. Though the law did not pass the House vote due to some controversial provisions, this will likely be back on their agenda in a new form in the future. New York has already passed such a law which will go into effect soon. California and Maine already have such a law which requires certain employers to provide sexual harassment training to either supervisors, employees or both. Some states such as Florida, Michigan and Tennessee have laws that encourage, rather than require, employers to provide the training.
Even if you are not in a state where it is or will become a legal requirement that you conduct sexual harassment training, you still should and here is why. If you don’t provide such training, some cases on the subject suggest that you will not have a defense in the event of a lawsuit. The reason would be that you have failed to take steps as an employer to prevent harassment from occurring. It is the legal duty of the employer to provide a workplace free of harassment. One of the ways you do that as an employer is to try to prevent it from occurring in the first place by providing training. It really is a small task that can result in a big reward and therefore worth it in my opinion.
If you are an employer in a state where sexual harassment training is now required by law and you want to learn more, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you are in one of those states or not, if you want to take steps as an employer to prevent sexual harassment, please give us a call at 724-864-8745.
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