Get Ahead of the Trend Toward Sexual Harassment Training Laws


Staffing industry organizations like compliance services, workforce management firms, employers of record services and employers themselves are acutely aware of the importance of staying current on important trends surrounding labor laws and regulations. That is why, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, astute employers are taking note of the emerging trend of states enacting sexual harassment training laws/statutes. Here’s the latest on the implementation of these new regulations and what they often seem to involve.

Currently, there are at least six states that have enacted legislation mandating compulsory sexual harassment training as part of employee onboarding practices. These are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine and New York. Numerous other states like Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont are “encouraging” in-state employers to provide such training. Industry watchers generally agree that this is a trend that is bound to continue to grow as more states embrace the popular thought on this matter.

As for what these new state laws look like, we can turn to some of the earliest adopting states to get some idea what the new laws involve. In New York for example, all employers statewide are required to adopt sexual harassment policies and training programs that meet or exceed the requirements set forth in the documents issued by New York State’s Department of Labor. These documents provide a definition of sexual harassment and detailed procedures for employees who wish to file claims in state and federal courts. They also require managers and supervisors to report any and all complaints they receive. It also stipulates sexual harassment training to be held yearly with new hires receiving training within 30 days of hire – even those who may not work full time in New York.

It is worth noting that New York law does not require training be provided to contractors, subcontractors, consultants or vendors. We point this out to illustrate the variability between the different versions of this law across different states. What is law in New York may or may not be applicable in Connecticut for example. Connecticut mandates training only for supervisors. California and Delaware require training at a two year interval. Maine requires training for all employees.

As more of these laws are enacted across individual states, there may be mounting pressure for a uniform law to be passed at the federal level so there would be a single standard nationwide. However, like most things related to the passage of federal legislation, there is a large degree of uncertainty regarding if or when that will occur. In the meantime, it is incumbent upon organizations with workforce operations in any and all states, to be fully aware of what is required to be in compliance or risk the consequences. For this reason, we’re making our expert workforce management resources available to answer questions and provide guidance on how your organization can protect its compliance record with respect to sexual harassment laws.

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