In countless break rooms and kitchens in offices across America, written policies regarding sexual harassment and its prevention are pinned to cork boards and corner walls, providing employees with information and outlining the consequences of non-compliance.
But the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements sparked by an onslaught of disturbing celebrity allegations over the last two years continues to forge social and legal change on a worldwide level.
Those dog-eared, coffee-stained policies are no longer good enough. Claims regarding sexual harassment are on the rise, and with them the rules regarding policies and mandatory training guidelines in every industry and office space are changing across the nation in a big way. Many states are also including training for bystander intervention.
Your business must follow suit.
In October of 2018, New York became the most recent state – joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina – in passing legislation that requires all employers to provide anti-harassment training.
Section 201-g of the New York State Labor Law requires employers, both private and public, to provide annual anti-harassment training to all employees, regardless of their immigration and exemption status, or whether they are full-time, part-time, or seasonal.
Many other states strongly encourage training, without making it mandatory – but with each passing day, new legislation is being proposed and put into action.
Maryland’s Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018, for instance, was also passed last October. The act prohibits certain waivers related to an employee's future sexual-harassment claims and future retaliation claims for making a sexual-harassment claim. It requires employers with at least 50 employees to complete a survey disclosing the number of sexual-harassment settlements in which the employer has entered.
Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. initiated the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Act of 2018, which is slated to take effect on July 1. The law requires businesses employing tipped workers to train all of their employees in the response, intervention, and prevention of sexual harassment.
For many employers, these new regulations and the threat of penalties for non-compliance can be an incredibly stressful and bewildering process. Finding a workforce management company that can help you navigate the occasionally byzantine path to compliance, all while protecting your company’s reputation and preventing litigation, is critical to your company’s enduring success.
Some initial steps to take should include:
- Update your policies and/or employee handbook. In addition to clear statements prohibiting unlawful sexual harassment and stating that it is a form of punishable employee misconduct; examples of prohibited behavior that could be considered unlawful; and information regarding remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, policies should include:
- An internal complaint form
- Outlined procedures for the investigation of complaints
- Employee rights of redress and information regarding
- A statement protecting individuals complaining of sexual harassment and those who testify or assist in investigations from unlawful retaliation.
- Schedule training for your employees. Regardless of whether you own and operate a business in one of the aforementioned states where training has been made mandatory – continuous education is key to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. It is also strongly encouraged by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws.
- Discuss expectations with employees and keep lines of communication open. Changes to office policy should be clearly communicated with your employees, and instructions provided for where to find additional information and training materials. Regular reminders should be provided regarding upcoming training sessions.
Increased regulation ultimately leads to an increased expenditure of funds and resources for employers; resources that many small businesses are frequently unable to shoulder without difficulty. As an outsourced workforce management company, Maslow Media Group can help you offset the time and resources that would normally be devoted to adopting newly enacted legislation.
Contact Maslow Media Group today to ensure that your business remains compliant.