Sexual harassment is a type of illegal sex discrimination under both state and federal law. An employer can be held liable not only for its own acts of sexual harassment, but in some cases acts of sexual harassment committed by employees/managers as well. To protect both your business and employees, it is imperative that employers take steps to train employees on anti-sexual harassment in the workplace.
California, New York City Among First Jurisdictions to Require Training of Most Employees
In some states, however, employers need to go a step further. Five states–and New York City–now require certain employers to provide mandatory sexual harassment training. While other states, like Florida, might not currently have a mandatory training law on its books, employers who operate in another state or city with a training requirement may still be required to comply.
The states that mandate training are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and New York. The New York law applies to all businesses with employees in the state. The other four states only impose training requirements after a business meets a certain employee threshold, ranging from 5 in California to 50 in Connecticut and Delaware.
Each state’s law also specifies which employees must be trained and how frequently. For example, California’s law states that starting in January 2020, a covered employer must provide at least two hours of “classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment” to supervisors, as well as one hour of training for all other employees. Initial training must occur within six months of an employee assuming his or her position, and thereafter at least once every two years.
New York City, which has required sexual harassment training since October 2018, also mandates training for part-time employees. According to the City’s website, the training itself must include live and web-based components and give employees the opportunity to “ask questions and give feedback.”
Generally speaking, training laws require the trainer to cover the applicable federal, state, and local laws governing sexual harassment. The training should inform supervisors of their obligation to identify, report, and correct individual acts of sexual harassment. Where non-supervisory employees receive training, it should include notice of their rights under the law to seek legal remedies without fear of retaliation.
Each state or city law may also specify who is qualified to provide sexual harassment training. In California, for instance, a trainer must be an attorney who is licensed to practice in that state and who regularly advises clients on employment law. A trainer may also be a “human resources professional” or “harassment prevention consultant” with at least two years of “practical experience” in dealing with sexual harassment. College or law school instructors may also qualify as trainers if they have a post-graduate degree or teaching credential and 20 hours of instructional experience in federal or state employment law.
Get Advice on Sexual Harassment Training
Even if your own business does not fall under the jurisdiction of another state or city’s training mandate, it is still a smart business practice to review your own sexual harassment policies with consideration to implement a training as a proactive measure. If you need advice on how to proceed with such training, consult with a qualified workplace harassment training employment law attorney.