Sexual Harassment Law in Connecticut
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 10-11-2018 02:56 AM
Synopsis: In the wake of media accounts of sexual harassment in the workplace, many states have recently taken steps to strengthen their sexual harassment laws. For example, in New York, the New York State Legislature and the New York City Government passed legislation expanding the protections of sexual harassment laws and requiring anti-harassment training for many public and private organizations. The simple idea is that bad behavior has been occurring for too long and that state governments need to take appropriate action to protect potential victims and create safer workplaces
In the wake of media accounts of sexual harassment in the workplace, many states have recently taken steps to strengthen their sexual harassment laws. For example, in New York, the New York State Legislature and the New York City Government passed legislation expanding the protections of sexual harassment laws and requiring anti-harassment training for many public and private organizations. The simple idea is that bad behavior has been occurring for too long and that state governments need to take appropriate action to protect potential victims and create safer workplaces
That said, not every state has been able to successfully pass new legislation—even in the wake of the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements. While there are several states that haven’t made much progress, our focus is on Connecticut and the current landscape of sexual harassment law within the state.
Ultimately, while the state of Connecticut hasn’t yet passed updated sexual harassment legislation, it is critical to understand your obligations—both reporting and otherwise—as a manager or owner of a Connecticut business.
Like the city and state of New York, Connecticut attempted to pass new legislation (called the “Time’s Up Act”) that would overhaul anti-harassment protections throughout the state. The legislation, among other things, would have mandated sexual harassment training for many employees and would have extended the amount of time that a claim could be brought for a sexual assault crime.
After some lengthy negotiations, the bill passed by a vote of 31-5 in the Connecticut State Senate, but it ultimately failed to meet a deadline to pass the Connecticut General Assembly. The primary reason that it failed to pass the Connecticut General Assembly centered on a portion of the bill that would have greatly extended the statute of limitations for all felony sexual assault crimes, like rape. Currently, the state’s statute of limitations is five years, which is among the shortest in the United States.
While advocates for the bill argued that victims should be able to seek justice years after Connecticut’s statute of limitations, opponents expressed their concern about defendants having to mount a defense against allegations from many decades ago that contain unreliable witness memory and little physical evidence.
Because of the failure of Connecticut’s “Time’s Up Act,” managers of Connecticut businesses must look at current Connecticut law to understand their reporting and training obligations. As always, if you have any questions about your or your organization’s compliance with the state’s anti-sexual harassment law, we encourage you to speak with your organization’s in-house counsel.
The main Connecticut anti-sexual harassment law can be found in sections 46a-54-200 - 46a-54-207 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies. Without going line-by-line through the regulations themselves it is helpful to outline some of the key takeaways for managers and business owners in Connecticut.
First, there are several important requirements regarding notice of illegal sexual harassment. Employers with three or more employees must post notices to employees regarding the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies to sexual harassment victims. That notice includes things like the statutory definition of sexual harassment and potential remedies, including cease and desist orders, back pay, or compensatory damages. The law further says that employers should place notices in prominent and accessible locations on property—particularly where notices to employees are customarily posted.
If your business has fifty or more employees, you not only have to comply with the notice requirements listed above. The Connecticut regulations provide some guidance on whether your business truly does have fifty employees. For the purposes of this definition, an employee includes supervisory and managerial employees and partners who are employed for at least thirteen weeks during the prior training year.
If you indeed have at least fifty employees, You also have to implement mandatory sexual harassment training (for two hours) to all supervisory employees within the state of Connecticut. Because of this, the definition of “supervisory employee” is critical. According to the regulations, a supervisory employee is any individual who has the authority (by his or her independent judgment and in the interest of the employer) to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, promote, reward or discipline other employees. It also means that the individual qualifies as a supervisory employee if he or she has the responsibility to direct employees or to adjust their grievances or effectively to recommend such actions.
The training of these supervisory employees must occur in a classroom-like setting and in a format that allows participants to ask questions and receive answers. You may be wondering about the type of content to include in the training. Ultimately, Connecticut law provides a list of required elements in the training. Without describing them all, some of the more important elements include the following:
- The explicit definition of sexual harassment, as outlined in the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.
- The types of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment under the law.
- The remedies available in sexual harassment cases.
- The penalties (both civil and criminal) for individuals who commit acts of sexual harassment.
Other elements that may be included in the training (but are not explicitly required) are:
- Conducting experimental exercises like role-playing and behavior modeling to illustrate what sexual harassment is and how to prevent it.
- Teaching the importance of interpersonal skills (like listening) and helping participants understand what a sexual harassment victim may be feeling.
- Telling participants about the importance of learning about and eliminating sexual harassment in order to create a more productive and positive work environment.
Also, while it is not explicitly required by the regulations, any employer with 50 or more employees is encouraged to provide an update on legal interpretations and related developments concerning sexual harassment to supervisory personnel once every three years.
Finally, employers are encouraged to maintain records concerning all training given to employees. There is no defined method of record-keeping, but it is recommended that employers include documents sufficient to show the content of training delivered (like the course curriculum), the names, addresses, and qualifying information of the trainers, and the names and titles of individuals trained and the date (or dates) that they were trained. The records should be kept for at least one year. That said, if a discriminatory practice complaint is filed against an individual that received sexual harassment training, you should keep your records until the complaint is resolved.
It is true that Connecticut’s regulations governing sexual harassment are more lenient compared to other states throughout the country. That said, this does not mean that you should not take a lenient approach to sexual harassment in the workplace. Besides potential fines for failure to comply with Connecticut’s anti-sexual harassment laws, allowing sexual harassment to fester in your workplace can result in lost productivity, lower employee morale, and lower profits.
Because of this, it is important to take a complete audit of your organization. See whether your organization has public notices of its anti-sexual harassment policy and whether you need to implement anti-sexual harassment training (if you haven’t done so already). While the initial steps may be costly, taking preventative action now will not only ensure compliance with state law, but it will also create a better, more positive working environment.