Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws in 2020: Training Requirements and Beyond

January 10, 2020 - minute read

When it comes to sexual harassment prevention in the workplace, a growing number of states are saying “Me Too.” In the last few years, it’s become a key labor compliance trend facing employers. With the new year, some states have ushered in new legislation, and employers can expect more to follow.

While most U.S. employers do have a sexual harassment policy in place, that doesn’t guarantee they’re in full compliance. Most sexual harassment laws encompass training, policy development, and enforcement, with a growing emphasis on training. It’s important to stay on top of it all, especially if you operate in multiple states. It’s equally important to develop a game plan for whatever comes next.

A Review of Workplace Sexual Harassment Training Laws  

On the federal level, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages employers to provide sexual harassment training to their employees, it doesn’t require it. However, since the rise of the Me Too and Times Up movements, a number of states have taken matters into their own hands. 

Currently, six states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Delaware, and Mainemandate that employers provide sexual harassment training to their employees and managers. So do two localities: New York City and Washington D.C. (the latter applies to tipped employees only.)

Maine’s law, enacted in 2017, is the oldest. Illinois’ law—which went into effect on January 1, 2020—is the most recent. While each law is unique, they all address the following components:

  • Which size employers are subject to the law – This ranges from employers with a minimum of three employees (Connecticut) to 50 employees (Delaware). In New York, all employers are subject to the law, period.   
  • Who must receive training – Some states have separate training requirements for employees and managers. Some specifically address training for interns, contractors and seasonal employees as well.
  • What training must consist of – Including how many hours of training employees must receive and what content the training course must cover.
  • How quickly new hires must receive training – For example, in California, new hires must receive training within six months, although seasonal workers must receive training within 30 days of hire.
  • How frequently employees must receive training – Most states require employees must receive training once every year or every two years.
  • The deadline for the completion of training for all employees – For example, in Illinois, the deadline for meeting its newly-enacted law is December 31, 2020. The clock is already ticking! 

But that’s not the end of it. Currently, there are another six states that recommend but don’t require that employers conduct sexual harassment training. And an additional 13 states require sexual harassment training for state government agencies, but not private employers. Yet.

Furthermore, a number of states are currently considering related legislation. Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington all have pending bills. Sooner rather than later, mandated sexual harassment training is likely to be the norm rather than the exception.

Why It Pays to Be Proactive about Sexual Harassment Training

Even if you’re not currently required by law to conduct sexual harassment training, there are many advantages to doing so. Employee training, along with strong policies and vigorous enforcement, is the proven cornerstone of workplace sexual harassment prevention.

In 2020, no business can afford to be “that employer”—the one with the poor track record of protecting its employees.

For one thing, it’s expensive. In fiscal year 2018, the EEOC alone secured more than $70 million in benefits for employees victimized by sexual harassment. Such violations make up about one-third of the agency’s total caseload. In fact, just this week, the EEOC announced its first settlement of 2020. This issue isn’t going away. 

For another, a single workplace incident can hurt your business in myriad ways—from creating bad will and crushing morale to tarnishing your reputation. In light of the current labor shortage, who wants to work for an employer that allows sexual harassment to take place under its eye?

How EPAY Can Help Simplify Training   

Unfortunately, training an entire workforce is no simple thing. Case in point: one component of California’s 2020 legislation was to push back its original deadline for training one more year—from January 1, 2020 to 2021—to give employers more time.  

As part of our HCM system, EPAY’s online learning management system (LMS) makes it easier for employers to manage their sexual harassment training programs. Our LMS can host multimedia courses for easy access by employees…track who’s completed their training…and keep HR on top of training schedules and deadlines.

In fact, we are in the process of developing a sexual harassment training program that is compliant with all states’ requirements—which will make life easier for EPAY customers. For strategies on developing an effective training program for hourly workers, read our related blog. For more information on the advantages we can offer your business, check out our quick video .    

Filed Under: Compliance HR News Learning and Development