The headlines of the week nationally have certainly surrounded sexual harassment allegations both old and new.  (Note: Due to my firm’s involvement in one of those cases, I will not be blogging on it). 

But with the issue back in the forefront, I’ve been surprised lately in my discussions by how some small to mid-size employers are overlooking the basics in Connecticut.   Do they believe that such conduct just doesn’t exist anymore or do they believe that their employees "know it all" about the subject? While claims of sex discrimination filed with the EEOC are down nearly 10 percentt from their peak in 2002, the numbers hardly show such a pronounced drop off that would indicate we’ve "solved’ the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Indeed over 20,000 complaints were still filed with the EEOC as of 2006.

What do I mean by the basics? In Connecticut, its training and posting.  These requirements are found in the administrative regulations , Conn. Regs 46a-54-200 et seq. set up by the CHRO regarding sexual harassment prevention. 

  • For posting: All employers who have 3 or more employees must notices that say sexual harassment is illegal and address what the remedies are for such harassment.  The regulations all spell out in specifics that the notices must contain certain elements. Fortunately, the CHRO has also prepared a model poster that complies with the statute and is available for free download

Of course, there are other laws as well that require postings to be set up.  Rather than address each law separately, consider using a company that specializes in such posters, like G.Neil. 

  • For training: The training requirements only apply to employers who have 50 or more employees and apply only to supervisory employees.  (This does not mean that employers who have less than 50 should NOT provide the training; instead, it means that they are not required to conduct such training.) 

Specifically, within 6 months of a new supervisor being hired or an employee being promoted to a supervisory position, the employee must receive at least two hours of training.  The format of the training is fairly rigid; according to the regulations:

Such training and education shall be conducted in a classroom-like setting, using clear and understandable language and in a format that allows participants to ask questions and receive answers.

Since that time, the CHRO has indicated, in an informal opinion, that some e-learning training may satisfy this requirement.  Regardless, the training must also include discussion of six discrete topics such as what the state and federal laws say, what types of conduct could be considered sexual harassment, and discussing strategies for preventing such harassment.

Here the kicker: The regulations suggest (but do not mandate) that such training be updated for ALL supervisory employees every three years.   What does this mean? It means that if an employer wants to project an image that it has a strong policy against sexual harassment, it should follow this advisory regulation to show that it is doing above and beyond what is required.

The regulations also suggest (but do not mandate) that records be kept of the training. Again, the regulations suggest a course of action that employers would be wise to follow.

Certainly, the workplace has changed in the 16 years since the issues surrounding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Professor Anita Hill became so widely publicized. But for employers in Connecticut, sustained vigilance is needed to make sure these changes and the progress that has been made, stick.