SEXHARRAS
Illustration by the Publsiher

SUBMITTED From the Law Firm, Carmody, Torrance, Sandak, Hennesey

Legislators in the Connecticut State House and Senate have proposed legislation that will significantly impact sexual harassment cases and sexual harassment training requirements. Although the proposals differ slightly, it is clear that legislators are seeking to expand sexual harassment training, including requiring employers to train non-supervisory employees. One proposal also seeks to extend the limitation and deadline periods for accusers to bring complaints before state courts and the CHRO.

The proposal pending in the Senate is titled "The Time's Up Act." The proposal, which is a clear response to the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, purports to be the "Largest Overhaul in Connecticut History of Sexual Harassment Laws." The Time's Up Act proposes the following changes:

Requires employers to email their sexual harassment policy and the remedies available under the law to employees at least once a year, in addition to posting them in the workplace. A significant increase in the fine for failing to comply with this requirement (the current fine is $250.)

Requires employers with 3 or more employees (rather than the current 50 or more threshold) to provide sexual harassment training to both supervisors and non-supervisory employees (rather than just supervisors.)

Extends the statute of limitations to file a harassment complaint with the CHRO from 180 days (or 6 months) to 2 years after the alleged harassment or discrimination.

Extends the deadline to file a lawsuit with the court after the CHRO issues a release of jurisdiction from 90 days to 2 years.

Allows the CHRO to provide injunctive relief to employees who work for employers with 3 or more employees (rather than the current 50 or more threshold.)

Authorizes the CHRO and private parties to petition for or request punitive damages in sexual harassment or other employment discrimination cases.

Prohibits nondisclosure provisions in settlement agreements and other contracts.

The proposal pending in the House (HB 5043) is titled, "An Act Promoting A Fair, Civil and Harassment-Free Workplace." Under the proposed bill:

Employers with 15 or more employees will be required to provide training to both supervisors and non-supervisory employees (rather than current 50 or more threshold or the 3 or more threshold under The Times Up Act.)

Training would consist of two cumulative hours of what legislators have called "awareness and anti-harassment compliance training and education" within 6 months of promotion of supervisors and 6 months of hire for employees. This requirement would take effect on October 1, 2019. Employers who provide this training between October 1, 2017 and October 1, 2019 would not be required to provide it for a second time.

Training would include, but not be limited to, examples of the types of conduct that constitute and do not constitute harassment and strategies to prevent harassment, bystander intervention training, a discussion of workplace civility that includes what is acceptable and expected behavior in the workplace, and training on the employer's policy against harassment.

Employers with 3 or more employees must post information on all types of harassment and the remedies available to the targets of such harassment on an annual basis. This information must be directly communicated to employees. Unlike The Time's Up Act, HB 5043 does not specify how it must be communicated to employees.

Our firm has been proactive in crafting sexual harassment training that is responsive to the current climate and consistent with emerging views on harassment. In addition to our recent seminar, Rethinking Sexual Harassment Prevention, we regularly provide sexual harassment training to supervisors and have developed a new program directed at non-supervisory employees. In the event that either of these legislative proposals passes this term, we are prepared to provide the newly required training.

You can find HB 5043 here, and The Time's Up Act here. In addition, please subscribe to our blog Carmody@Work. We will be featuring blog posts on sexual harassment inspired by our seminar Rethinking Sexual Harassment Prevention and other federal and local developments.