Resolving harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims remains a top priority for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency continues to be persistent in enforcing federal laws against unlawful conduct, and despite the countless reminders to companies on prevention training, it’s unfortunate that this behavior continues to occur, as seen in a recent case: EEOC Sues for Racial Harassment and Retaliatory Termination.
Why Training is Important
Sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training help to:
- Ensure employees understand what sexual harassment is, that it is prohibited in the workplace, and how it will be handled if it does occur.
- Provide a positive workplace where employees feel supported.
- Minimize liability and the negative consequences of sexual harassment.
- Protect the employer’s defense against hostile work environment claims involving supervisors if certain criteria are met (for example, if the employer took reasonable care to prevent and correct harassing behavior).
Where Training is Required
The below chart lists those states with sexual harassment prevention training requirements and which employers are affected:
|State / Jurisdiction||Covered Employers|
|California||At least five employees (including any employees outside of California; part-time employees; employees hired through a staffing agency; and independent contractors); temporary and seasonal employees employed in any 20 consecutive weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Public employers are covered and must comply with the training requirements. (Certain licensed or regulated professions may have differing requirements)|
|Connecticut||Employers of three or more employees for posting and employee/supervisor training requirements; employers with fewer than three employees must provide training to all supervisory employees.|
|Delaware||Employers of four or more employees for notice requirements; employers with 50 or more employees in Delaware for training requirements.|
|District of Columbia||Employers covered under the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act of 2018.|
|Illinois||Private employers with employees working in Illinois must provide sexual harassment prevention training to employees. (Certain licensed or regulated professions may have differing requirements)|
|Illinois (Chicago)||All employers.|
|Maine||Private employers with 15 or more employees. (Public employers are also covered)|
|New York||All employers.|
|New York (New York City)||Employers subject to the New York City Human Rights Law with 15 or more employees.|
Who Should Receive Training
As noted in the above chart, employees of certain states must undergo mandatory harassment training. Employers must provide training according to certain applicable federal and state requirements. For example, California companies with five or more employees must provide two hours of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to all supervisors and one hour to nonsupervisory employees within six months of hire or promotion. They must continue to provide training every two years after that.
Employers must also consider their remote workers; out of sight cannot be out of mind. With less in-person interaction, employers may mistakenly think they are at lower risk of sexual harassment and abusive conduct occurring in the workplace, but unfortunately, this is not the case.
Employers are obligated to take reasonable steps to prevent and immediately correct discriminatory and harassing conduct. With the shift toward remote work, employers also must be mindful of workplace harassment online. They are liable for harassing acts committed by supervisors, employees, and even third parties. All companies should prioritize managing this risk and determining if the work culture is allowing or encouraging harassment to occur.
In 2020, employers paid out more than $65 million for sex-based harassment (not including money paid from litigation), according to the EEOC – the second most in the last decade.
Also important to keep in mind is that harassment can occur toward any protected class, as highlighted in another recent case: EEOC Sues for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation.
Be proactive! Even in states that do not have harassment prevention training laws in place, training is a recommended best practice. Every employer should have a comprehensive employment training program in place to continually educate its employees and managers. Workplace training helps an employer reduce the risk of legal liability and supports employees with their professional development and internal communication.
Our clients can easily provide the required training to employees and managers through our online portal. In fact, we offer training solutions that ensure compliance and develop employees with more than 200 courses, most of which are also available in Spanish. Emplicity is here to make HR simple for you.
If you have any questions related to specific training requirements for your company, want to implement a training program, or need HR support, please contact us today.
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Since 1995, Emplicity has provided a smarter, more secure, and integrated platform of employer services to its 300 business clients and their 8,500 employees. As a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, the California-based HR outsourcing firm simplifies the compliance, administration, and support businesses need in the areas of employee benefits, payroll, and human resources technology.
NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of its clients.