Senate Bill 3, titled “Combatting Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment” has been modified since first introduced and passed the Senate late last week. Despite the title, the bill would impact every discrimination case filed in the state and would make significant changes to the sexual harassment prevention training requirements.
It is awaiting a vote in the House and now’s the time for employers to see the major changes being proposed.
Let’s wait to see what final passage looks like but as it stands right now, here are the key changes:
- The bill expands sexual harassment prevention training to cover all employers who have supervisors and non-supervisors for employers with 3 or more employees. The CHRO is to develop free, online training that employers can use. Training must be updated every ten years by employers.
- Employers will be required to send a copy of a Sexual Harassment Policy via e-mail to its employees or post on its website if employees don’t have e-mail.
- If employers do not comply, it will now be a “discriminatory practice” that would allow employees to sue employers for failing to comply.
- When an employer is taking prompt remedial action in response to a claim of harassment, the employer can only modify the target’s condition of employment upon agreement in writing from the employee.
- The bill would change the time that an individual has to file a complaint of discrimination with the CHRO from 180 days to 300 days.
- The bill would allow a CHRO Hearing Officer to allow attorney’s fees and costs to be awarded and also seeming allow compensatory damages too. While it doesn’t state it explicitly, it does state that a Hearing Office may “determine the amount of damages suffered by the complainant, including the actual costs incurred by the complainant, as a result of the discriminatory employment practice”. This would be a major change from existing practice.
- The bill would allow courts to award punitive damages in discrimination cases; previously the Connecticut Supreme Court did not allow it.
- The bill would also allow the CHRO to assign legal counsel to bring a legal action in court instead of just an administrative hearing when doing so would be in the public interest, and where all the parties agree.
As you can see from the above, the bill would make changes far beyond just sexual harassment cases and could fundamentally shift even more discrimination cases to state courts or CHRO public hearings (where we have already seen an increase).
Employers should watch this bill closely for further developments.