States and municipalities are promptly responding to the #MeToo and Time's Up movements by passing laws that require employers to provide annual sexual harassment training for all employees and supervisors. Interestingly, previously the only states in the country that by law required sexual harassment training were California, Connecticut and Maine. Moreover, California and Connecticut only required such training for supervisors/managers. However, most employers understand that this type of training, even if not specifically required by law, is still necessary to enable an employer to be able to demonstrate the Farragher and Ellerth affirmative defense that they have exercised "reasonable care" to prevent and promptly correct any harassment. Up until this point, employers located in jurisdictions other than California, Connecticut and Maine could choose when and if at all to provide sexual harassment training. However, that is no longer the case.
Recently, on May 9, 2018, New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, one of the strictest laws prohibiting sexual harassment. This law requires employers in New York City to conduct interactive sexual harassment training at least annually for all employees and supervisors/managers. It also requires employers to have a sexual harassment policy and it applies the prohibitions in the New York City Human Rights Law to all private employers in New York City, even those with less than four employees.
Not only has New York City passed new laws requiring sexual harassment training but New York state has done so as well. New York State recently enacted such a law that will be effective October 9, 2018. It is clear that more states will follow in the wake of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. In fact, bills are currently pending in both Delaware and Pennsylvania that would require employers to provide sexual harassment training. In addition, both California and Connecticut are considering passing bills that would strengthen their current requirements for employers to provide sexual harassment training and now require it for employees as well as supervisors.
What can you do to prepare for these new laws? Make sure that you have an effective, well-drafted sexual and unlawful harassment policy and that you provide sexual and unlawful harassment training at least annually. The training should be at least one to two hours long (CA requires it to be two-hours) and it should examine both types of harassment that can happen in the workplace and specify to whom complaints of harassment should be brought in your workplace.