#MeToo and evolving anti-harassment legislation are driving demand for new approaches to sexual harassment training. Traliant’s Andrew Rawson discusses three questions to ask when reviewing your training program.
In 2020, organizations across industries can expect the spotlight to remain on preventing workplace harassment, improving company culture and complying with an ever-growing list of laws requiring sexual harassment training. To date, New York, New York City, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Delaware and Maine require employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training and take other steps to address and prevent this pervasive workplace problem.
As part of a comprehensive approach to combating workplace harassment, consider these three questions about your sexual harassment training program:
- Does it comply with new state and local laws?
- Is the training modern and relevant to a multigenerational workforce?
- How does the training help create a respectful, inclusive workplace?
1. Does the training comply with new state and local laws?
Regardless of the jurisdiction, the message is clear: lawmakers recognize the importance of sexual harassment training in strengthening anti-harassment protections and creating better workplaces. And while training must at a minimum cover the mandated topics (such as an explanation of sexual harassment and examples of conduct that constitutes sexual harassment), training should also be easy to update with new rules and requirements, as well as any changes to internal policies and procedures.
New York State
Effective October 9, 2019, New York requires employers to provide interactive sexual harassment training to all employees and supervisors annually. Also in 2019, the New York State Human Rights Law was amended to remove the “severe or pervasive” standard of sexual harassment. Lowering the legal barrier for proving sexual harassment amplifies the need to implement and communicate up-to-date policies, procedures and training.
New York employers must:
- Train new employees as soon as possible after their start date.
- Train all workers – part-time, temporary and seasonal workers, regardless of their immigration status – on an annual basis.
- Provide training that requires some level of employee participation; it may be web-based.
- Provide training in the language spoken by the employees.
- Keep a copy of training records and a signed acknowledgment that employees have read the organization’s sexual harassment prevention policy. This is encouraged, but not required.
New York City
New York state’s anti-harassment laws apply to all New York employers, but organizations operating in New York City with 15 or more employees have additional requirements under the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act.
Under the Act:
- Training must cover bystander intervention and retaliation.
- Training must 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 must be kept for a minimum of three years.
Effective on January 1, 2020, the Workplace Transparency Act (SB 75), which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act, requires sexual harassment training for all employees. In addition, restaurants and bars doing business in Illinois must provide training that includes specific conduct, activities or videos related to the restaurant and bar industry, the videos must be available in English and Spanish.
Under Illinois law:
- All Illinois employers must train employees on sexual harassment prevention each calendar year. All employees — including interns and short-term or part-time staff — must complete the training by December 31, 2020.
- Training must meet or exceed the standards of the training model of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).
- Employers are required to keep training records and make them available for IDHR inspection.
Under the Time’s Up Act (Public Act No. 19-16 and 19-93), all Connecticut employers are required to provide interactive sexual harassment training to supervisory employees 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.
- Existing employees must be trained by October 1, 2020 and be retrained at least every 10 years.
- All employees hired on or after October 1, 2019 must be trained within six months of hire and retrained at least every 10 years.
- Anyone who received two hours of training after October 1, 2018 does not have to be retrained before the October 1, 2020 deadline.
- Employers are encouraged to keep training records for a minimum of one year.
SB 1343 requires California employers with five or more employees to provide interactive sexual harassment training and education to both supervisors and nonsupervisory staff by January 1, 2021.
Under California law:
- Supervisory employees must receive two hours of interactive sexual harassment training and then be retrained every two years.
- Nonsupervisory employees must receive one hour of interactive sexual harassment training and then be retrained every two years.
- Seasonal and temporary employees must receive one hour of training within 30 calendar days or 100 hours if they work for less than six months.
- Additional training must be provided to employees who are promoted to supervisors within six months of starting their new positions.
- Employers must keep records of the training for a minimum of two years.
In addition, California hotel and motel employers must comply with SB 970, a new human-trafficking law that went into effect on January 1, 2020. Employees who are likely to interact with or encounter traffickers and victims of human trafficking must receive human-trafficking awareness training every two years.
Under HB 360, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide interactive training and education to all employees.
- All new employees and supervisors must be trained within one year of hire and then every two years thereafter.
- 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.
Under Maine’s sexual harassment law, 26 M.R.S.A S807, §807, employers with 15 or more employees must provide training to all employees within one year of hire. Additionally,
- Within one year of their hire or promotion, supervisory and managerial employees must receive additional training on their specific responsibilities to address sexual harassment complaints.
- Employers must keep training records for at least three years and must make the records available for inspection upon request.
2. Is the training modern and relevant to a diverse, multigenerational workforce?
In assessing harassment training over the past 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace said that training hasn’t worked to prevent harassment because it’s been too narrowly focused on avoiding liability. Rather than focus on laws, effective training should focus on behavior, making it clear to employees what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and the consequences of misconduct.
The EEOC Task Force also championed regular, interactive training that’s tailored to the specific workplace and workforce. Online training can and should take advantage of new technologies that can humanize compliance topics and deepen understanding through scenario-based videos and interactivity. And industry-specific videos and other content can further create a more relevant and meaningful training experience.
3. How does the training help create a respectful, inclusive workplace?
In today’s tight job market, having a positive workplace culture has never been more important. One in five Americans left a job in the past five years due to a toxic company culture, costing organizations an estimated $223 billion in turnover, according to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
The EEOC Task Force also weighed in:
“Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment.”
By providing employees with insights and practical steps for maintaining workplace respect and civility, training can help foster a positive working environment and stop rude, bullying behavior before it crosses the line into illegal harassment.
Importantly, training on bystander intervention, diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias can also empower employees to proactively improve workplace culture.
Moving from Awareness to Action to Prevention
As the #MeToo movement continues to give rise to new workplace harassment laws, organizational leaders have an opportunity to take a holistic approach to policies, procedures and behavior-based training that can work together to reduce the risk of workplace harassment, encourage employees to speak up and report incidents and move the conversation from awareness to action to prevention.
New York City: Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act Frequently Asked Questions
Delaware: House Bill 360
Maine: Sexual Harassment Policies