Connecticut Law Imposes New and Expanded Anti-Sexual Harassment Obligations
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed on June 18, 2019, the “Time’s Up” bill into law, which will result in changes to the sexual harassment laws of the state and impact Connecticut employers. Connecticut now joins four other states in passing legislation related to anti-sexual harassment, obligating more employers to provide mandatory training to employees and supervisors.
Connecticut’s law took effect Oct. 1, 2019.
Update: The Connecticut Human Rights Organization (CHRO), in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced that an extension for completing the required training for employees hired after Oct. 1, 2019 has been granted to employers.
Background on Connecticut Anti-Sexual Harassment Law
Connecticut currently requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide training and education on the state and federal sexual harassment laws and remedies to employees in supervisory roles. Connecticut does not currently require employers provide sexual harassment training to non-supervisory employees. This changed Oct. 1, 2019, as the law expanded to require all employers of all sizes to provide training to supervisory employees and employers with three or more employees to provide training to non-supervisory employees.
Connecticut has required employers with three or more employees to post in a prominent and accessible location information concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment. This requirement will remain in effect and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) has issued an updated Sexual Harassment is Illegal Poster on its website.
What Are New Notification Requirements Related to Anti-Sexual Harassment in Connecticut?
Under the new law and effective Oct. 1, 2019, Connecticut employers with three or more employees must provide information about the illegality of sexual harassment, as well as remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, to all employees within three months of an employee’s start date.
Employers can meet this requirement by providing the information through an employer-issued email with the subject line including the words “Sexual Harassment Policy” or similar words. If there is not an employer-issued work email address, the employer must post the information on the employer’s website, if the employer maintains such a site. Employers can meet this requirement by providing employees a link within an email or on its own website to the website of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Employers who fail to distribute this information might be subject to fines up to $1,000.
Which Employers Must Provide Anti-Sexual Harassment Training in Connecticut?
There is no longer a minimum employee count threshold for employers to be required to provide mandatory sexual harassment training to supervisors; all employers must provide training to all supervisors.
The new law requires employers to provide two hours of training to all existing employees in supervisory roles by Oct. 1, 2020, with supervisors hired on or before Oct. 1, 2019 required to be receive training and educational materials within six months of starting employment. However, if employers provided appropriate training to these employees after Oct. 1, 2018, they are considered to have met the requirement.
The CHRO recently provided an update related to sexual harassment prevention training requirements. The original Oct. 1 Sexual Harassment Prevention Training deadline has been extended by executive order to Jan. 1, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If there are any questions, the CHRO advises employers to email the organization at CHRO.Questions@ct.gov,
Employers with three or more employees also must provide two hours of training to all non-supervisory employees hired after Oct. 1, 2019.
Any employers required to provide training, either to supervisors or to non-supervisory employees, must provide supplemental training not less than every 10 years. The training can be provided in person or online, but if it is online, employees must be provided opportunities to ask questions and receive answers in a reasonable amount of time.
The CHRO is required to develop and include on the CHRO’s website a link concerning the illegality of sexual harassment. The CHRO developed and made available Oct. 1, 2019, a model training to employees in Connecticut.
As with the notification requirements, employers who fail to meet training and education requirements are subject to fines of up to $1,000.
Other Changes Under the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law in Connecticut
The current law has a statute of limitations on filing a complaint, giving individuals 180 days following an alleged instance of sexual harassment to report it. Under the new law, an individual claiming discrimination and/or sexual harassment that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2019, now has 300 days following the alleged incident to file a claim.
Additionally, the amount of damages that can be awarded have expanded to include reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs in the finding of a discriminatory employment practice. The presiding officer in the hearing would make such a decision.
The new law also includes additional punitive damages available to the plaintiff in a complaint filed in court upon finding of discriminatory employment practice. The CHRO also is authorized to assign CHRO counsel to bring a civil action in lieu of an administrative hearing when the CHRO determines that a civil action is in the public interest and if both parties to the administrative hearing mutually agree. Any such civil action will be tried by a bench trial.
Can an Employer’s Business be Inspected for Compliance with Anti-Sexual Harassment Law in Connecticut?
Yes. Under the new law, the executive director of the CHRO is authorized to assign a designated representative of the CHRO to enter an employer’s business during normal business hours to ensure compliance with the posting requirements and to review all records, policies, procedures, and training materials maintained by the employer.
Connecticut employers should post the Sexual Harassment is Illegal Poster and prepare to comply with the mandates related to providing information to employees and training requirements.
The CHRO posted on its website Oct. 1, 2019, model training and educational materials. Paychex can also provide additional support to help your business with its HR needs, including helping keep you up to date on federal and state regulations that affect compliance.