Sexual Harassment Policies in the US: Why Knowing Your State’s Policy Is Important

Rochelle van Rensburg

Sexual harassment is a major problem in today’s workplace that employees and companies frequently have to deal with. Besides the emotional trauma and decreased performance it causes, it can lead to expensive and stressful lawsuits, damaging your company’s reputation.

This is why companies must prioritize sexual harassment prevention training and provide comprehensive training to employees, supervisors, and managers. It offers guidelines on how to respond when encountering these situations and helps build awareness.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidelines applicable to organizations in all states. According to these guidelines, training should be provided to all employees, ensuring that they understand their responsibilities and rights. It also states that the training should be reinforced and conducted regularly for all employees.

Presently, many states have passed laws requiring and encouraging sexual harassment prevention training. By prioritizing this training, you will be protected from liability in serious and expensive harassment lawsuits, and workplace harassment will be considerably reduced.

Although it is highly recommended that all companies in all states offer and maintain sexual harassment prevention training, not all states in the US have the same training requirements.

In some states, training is recommended but not required, while others have strict and detailed training requirements in place.

States in the US where sexual harassment prevention training is not required but recommended are:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

States where there are no requirements but where the state encourages all employers to take the necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment and possible legal action against the company are Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Here are the 19 states with the most comprehensive and stringent sexual harassment prevention training requirements:

1. California.

Sexual harassment prevention training is mandatory for companies with fifty or more employees. The company must provide two hours of training to supervisors within six months of hire and at least once every two years. All public employees must receive training, regardless of how many employees there are.

2. Connecticut.

Effective from 1 October 2019, employers with three or more employees had to ensure that all employees received two hours of sexual harassment training. Existing employees had to complete the training by 1 October 2020, and all employees hired on or after 1 October 2019 were to receive the training within six months of hire.

3. Delaware.

As from 1 January 2019, employers with fifty or more employees had to provide sexual harassment prevention training for all employees and supervisors – excluding independent contractors and applicants. The training must be provided for new employees within one year of the commencement date of employment and be interactive.

4. Florida.

Supervisors in executive branch agencies must receive equal opportunity and affirmative action training, which includes sexual harassment.

5. Illinois.

With effect from 1 January 2020, all employers had to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all state employees each year. The training program must include the following:

  • A summary of the employer’s responsibilities for investigation, corrective measures, and prevention of sexual harassment.
  • An explanation of what sexual harassment is.
  • Examples of unlawful sexual harassment.

6. Iowa.

Each department’s directors in a state agency and their employees must attend training on sexual harassment prevention, cultural diversity, and affirmative action.

7. Maine.

All employers trading in the state of Main with fifteen or more employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training to all their employees within a year of the commencement date of employment. Managers and supervisors must receive additional training.

8. Michigan.

Education and training programs must be provided to all labor organizations, employers, and employment agencies by the Department of Civil Rights.

9. Nevada.

Within six months of hire, all state employees must receive certified harassment training and take an accredited refresher sexual harassment course every two years after that. Employees can be ordered to retake a course or take additional courses.

10. New Jersey.

All state employees of state agencies must take a certified course on sexual harassment within six months of their employment date and a refresher course every two years after that.

sexual harassment prevention training

11. New Mexico.

Primary and secondary education centers must train all school personnel at least once a year.

12. New York.

Effective from 9 October 2018, all private and public employers had to conduct annual anti-harassment training for all employees. They also had to distribute a written anti-harassment policy. The deadline for the initial training was 9 October 2019. Training must be interactive and contain the following:

  • Information on state and federal laws regarding sexual harassment, as well as resources for victims.
  • Examples of sexual harassment and unlawful conduct.
  • An explanation of what sexual harassment is.
  • Information on employees’ rights and where they can report incidents and have complaints resolved.

13. North Carolina.

All state agencies must create an unlawful harassment plan, which includes sexual harassment training.

14. Oklahoma.

All state employees should receive training on discrimination and equal employment opportunities.

15. Pennsylvania.

State agency employees must receive sexual harassment prevention training, including workplace discussions, individual counseling, educational videos, and orientation sessions.

16. Tennessee.

Each department must be assisted by the state Department of Personnel with planning and delivering sexual harassment prevention training to all public employees.

17. Texas.

Within thirty days of the employment date, state employees must receive employment discrimination training, including sexual harassment training. Training must be repeated every two years.

18. Utah.

All state employers must provide sexual harassment training approved by the Department of Human Resource and Risk Management within ninety days of the employment date. A refresher training course must be provided at least every three years.

19. Washington.

This is an executive order and determines that every state employee must take sexual harassment prevention training to eliminate sexual harassment.

Conclusion

It is best to make sure that your employees are adequately trained and familiar with sexual harassment prevention training. Even if the state your business operates in does not actively endorse sexual harassment training, you will avoid expensive lawsuits and ensure that your employees feel safe in their workplace.

Coggno has a wide range of online sexual harassment prevention training courses.
You can have a look at our free courses here and our course catalog here.

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