As many of the state's manufacturers are already aware, June 2019 saw significant changes to Connecticut’s laws addressing workplace sexual harassment prevention. Employers’ obligations regarding notice to employees, training requirements and corrective action following an investigation were all expanded.
First, although employers previously had to post a notice regarding sexual harassment in a conspicuous place, employers also must now send that notice by email within three months of hire. The email message line must include “Sexual Harassment Policy” or similar wording. If the employer does not give its employees email addresses, it can satisfy this requirement by posting the notice on its website.
Second, the act expands the types of employers subject to mandatory training. Previously, only employers with 50 or more employees needed to provide training, and then only to supervisors. Under the new act, employers with three or more employees must train all employees. Further, all employers, regardless of size, must provide training to all supervisors. The training must be completed for existing employees by October 1, 2020, and for any new employees hired after October 1, 2019, within six months of their hire date, so virtually all of the state's manufacturers will need to implement the mandatory training for all employees beginning right away.
Third, the act limits an employer’s ability to modify an employee’s conditions of employment after the employee complains of harassment. For example, employers generally cannot reassign, relocate or change an employee to a different shift without first obtaining written consent. If the employee will not provide written consent, the employer can still make the change only if it is (1) reasonable and (2) not detrimental to the employee.
Fourth, the act made other procedural changes to the existing law. For example, investigators from the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) now have the right and ability to inspect the workplace during work hours to ensure compliance with the new training and notice requirements. In addition, the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims for instances occurring after October 1, 2019, has been increased to 300 days, up from 180 days.
Finally, hearing officers at the CHRO now can award increased economic damages and attorneys’ fees. Punitive damages, which the state Supreme Court had denied in prior cases, are also now available.
The effective date for these changes was June 25, 2019.
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