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Sexual Harassment Law Changes in 2019

Anything that causes an individual to feel harassed, discriminated against or treated unfairly, in any way, has a huge ripple effect and isn’t only relevant to your immediate employees. Its impact extends much further and some state governments are getting involved in solving the problem. Whether you’re a large company with many employees or a close-knit start-up, harassment laws apply to you and need to be handled with the utmost care.

How does harassment apply to your business?

Today, workplace harassment and discrimination has bubbled to the surface more than ever before. Because of this, it’s also more important than ever to be aware of the legislation that pertains to sexual and general harassment. It can be tough to keep up with constant changes in workplace law, so below we’ve highlighted some of the major changes that are taking effect in 2019.

 

California

Major changes (effective Jan 1, 2019):

  • When it comes to any form of harassment (not just sexual harassment), employers will be responsible for not only the acts of employees, but non-employees as well. This includes unpaid interns, volunteers, even applicants! If immediate corrective action is not taken by supervisors or employers once they find out harassment has occurred, they can face serious consequences. - Senate Bill No. 1300
  • Legal changes have been made to prevent employers from making employees sign non-disclosure contracts (keeping quiet) in regards to any unlawful acts. This includes providing incentives or clauses in contracts to keep quiet about any unlawful acts occurring in the workplace as it pertains to any form of harassment. - Senate Bill No. 1300
  • In the past, current or former employers were only able to disclose information regarding performance or qualifications to prospective employers about a prospective employee. Employers are now allowed to include any information, in regards to sexual harassment claims, to prospective employers about a prospective employee as long as the claims have been found to be credible. - Assembly Bill No. 2770
  • Non-disclosure agreements prohibiting the disclosure of information pertaining to sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination, discrimination, in settlements are no longer allowed. - Senate Bill No. 820
  • Non-disclosure contracts cannot be made to stop employees from testifying about sexual harassment. If such contracts are made or have been made previously, they will be voided. - Assembly Bill No. 3109>

 

Other notable changes:

  • Employers are encouraged to train employees on how to recognize harassment in the workplace and how to stop it. Employers are not required to provide this ‘bystander training’ but are heavily encouraged to. Training can involve how to stop potentially problematic behaviour and how to act against harassment of any kind. - Senate Bill No. 1300
  • At least 1 woman is now required to be on any board with fewer than 4 individuals. If the board consists of 5 individuals, 2 women are required and for boards of 6 or more individuals, 3 women are required to have seats on the board. Most companies have been given a deadline of 2021 to complete this, before facing serious fines. - Senate Bill No. 826
  • An employer must provide a private nursing room, also known as a lactation room for nursing mothers. The new bill states that this mandate can no longer satisfied by a bathroom. This change applies to all employers. - Assembly Bill No. 1976
  • Employers can no longer use an unrelated criminal record to discriminate against, or choose not to hire an employee. They may, however, take applicable offenses into account only if it is relevant to the job. - Senate Bill No. 1412

 

Major Changes (effective Jan 1, 2020):

  • Employers with 5 or more employees must provide up to 2-hours of sexual harassment training depending on their position within 6-months of their date of hire. Re-training must be done every 2-years following initial training. This is important for small companies as the previous law only applied to employers with 50 or more employees. Online training will also be required and provided by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. - Senate Bill No. 1343
 

New York

Major changes (effective Jan 1, 2019):

  • Any company with 5 or more employees must conduct documented, anti-harassment training. This applies to all current employees and contractors. Training must be completed 30-days after the employees’ hire date. Continued re-training is needed every year. - Bill No. S07507c
 

Delaware

Major changes (effective Jan 1, 2019):

  • The Delaware Discrimination in Employments Act has widened its worker categories to include apprentices, joint employees, applicants, unpaid interns, agency individuals and state employees. This means, retroactively and moving forward, employers will need to act if anyone, falling under these categories, reports/has reported experiencing sexual harassment by a supervisor or by another employee. - House Bill No. 360
  • Employers with 50 or more employees will need to provide documented, sexual harassment training to all current employees within 1-year of their date of hire. This includes and applies to any employee being promoted to a supervisory position as well. - House Bill No. 360

Note: Training must be held for all current employees in 2019. Re-training is to be continued every 2-years for all employees.

 

Building an inclusive workplace culture is key

This is just a subset of the changes occurring in 2019. These changes are applicable to all companies, businesses and employers of all sizes and will only increase in the future. Sexual harassment laws apply to and affect us all, in every position and every industry. It’s important to not only understand legal changes, but how to implement a positive work culture and reduce the risk of lawsuits preemptively. For more information on exactly how to implement a preventative anti-harassment action plan, please visit our homepage to learn about how tEQuitable can help.

tEQuitable can help!

We provide training, tools, and data to help organizations address issues of bias, discrimination and harassment in the workplace. We will work closely with your team to come up with an actionable plan to prevent harassment altogether. If you are ready to stand up and make a difference, please contact us.

 
 
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