Connecticut has joined New York, New Jersey, and several other states in adopting measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Effective October 1, 2019, Connecticut employers will have a host of new training, notice, and human resources requirements with which to comply — and will now face new, substantial categories of damages for violations. This post will discuss these new changes, as well as the other expanded employee protections afforded under this new legislation.
Mandatory training for employees and supervisors
Under Connecticut’s new law, employers with three or more employees must provide all employees with two hours of sexual harassment prevention training. Existing employees must be trained by October 1, 2020, and employees hired on or after October 1, 2019, must be trained within six months of hire. In addition, all employers regardless of size will be required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors. Supervisor training must be provided by October 1, 2020, or within six months of an employee assuming a supervisory role. (Previously, supervisor training was required only for employers with more than 50 employees in Connecticut.) While the new law does not require annual training, Connecticut employers must provide supplemental training not less than every 10 years.
That training must include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of harassment. The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) has been tasked with creating training resources employers may use to satisfy this requirement, as well as general resources on sexual harassment.
Within three months of hire, all new Connecticut employees must receive information about the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of harassment (employers are already required to post this information prominently in the workplace). In addition, employers must send this information via email to employees. If employees do not have work or personal email accounts, an employer may post the information on its intranet or provide a link to the CHRO’s website on sexual harassment.
Corrective action requirements
The new law also legislates how employers must respond to internal complaints of sexual harassment. If an employer receives a harassment complaint, it cannot make any changes to the terms and conditions of the complainant’s employment unless (1) the employee consents in writing or (2) the action is supported by evidence establishing that it was reasonable and not detrimental to the complainant. Such changes include, but are not limited to, relocation of the employee, change of schedule, or transfer to another department.
Expanded statutes of limitations and damages for all claims
Finally, employees will now have 300 days (rather than 180 days) from the date of an adverse action to file a complaint with the CHRO. Additionally, employees pursuing claims in court under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA) will now be entitled, for the first time, to recover punitive damages, and employees pursuing claims at the CHRO will also be able to obtain reasonable attorneys’ fees (regardless of the amount of damages requested or awarded). These new measures apply to all discrimination claims under the CFEPA.
Connecticut employers of all sizes should familiarize themselves with this new law and update their policies and training materials accordingly.