Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unlawful discriminatory practice that violates the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA). Connecticut employees have the right to file formal complaints and take legal action against their employer in cases of impropriety. For Connecticut employers who fail to prevent instances of sexual harassment, such complaints may lead to having to pay fines and/or punitive damages, the loss of valuable employees, and a negative effect on the bottom line (hence, figuring out how to prevent sexual harassment
Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment Have a Right To Formally Complain to the CHRO
For Connecticut employees who decide to lodge a formal legal complaint against their Connecticut employer, the process begins with filing a state and federal complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) within the specified time window (statute of limitations).
What The CHRO Does
The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) exists to
"eliminate discrimination through civil and human rights law enforcement and to establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons within the state through advocacy and education".
One of its key statutory responsibilities is to enforce human rights laws against illegal discrimination in employment practices.
- employees have more time to formally report employment discrimination with the Commission
- employees enjoy added protections for victims of sexual harassment (such as the right to seek punitive damages)
- employers must adhere to specified posting requirements of information regarding the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
- there are stricter workplace training requirements for companies with three or more employees to train all workers, not just supervisory employees (while companies with fewer than three employees must provide sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees), to be completed by October 1, 2020 for existing employees -- or within six months for new hires
- the CHRO has more authority in the measures it takes toward employers to ensure compliance with the above rules
The Statute of Limitations Has Been Extended
In accordance with the Time's Up Act, starting on October 1, 2019, victims of sexual harassment have the right to file a formal complaint against their Connecticut employer within 300 days from the date of the alleged act of discrimination (versus the 180 days allowed prior to the Act).
The Process for Victims of Sexual Harassment
The complaint process begins
with the employee calling, sending a letter to, or visiting any CHRO office. An interview with a CHRO Intake Officer is then set up to help with filing the complaint.
After the grievance is registered, the person or company accused of sexual harassment is served with a formal notice and has 30 days to respond under oath (failure to do so may result in a default in the complainant's favor).
The CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities then has 60 days from the date of the response to assess whether the Commission reasonably believes
that the Connecticut employer is in violation of discrimination law. If the conclusion is "no", the case is dismissed.
If the Executive Director of the CHRO deems the case plausible, the Commission launches an investigation, followed by a series of determinations that may end in a conciliatory financial settlement for the complainant or move be decided at a public hearing trial that will settle which punitive damages and remedies available to victims are most fitting to award.
The CHRO Is Now Authorized to Send Inspectors to Enter an Employer's Workplace
The aforementioned Act states that effective October 1, 2019, the CHRO may enter an employer's place of business to review all records, policies, procedures, and training materials maintained by the employer, in order to ensure compliance with the posting requirements or if a sexual harassment complaint has been filed by an employee of the company within the preceding 12 months.
Connecticut Employer Responsibilities Regarding Sexual Harassment
Connecticut employers must familiarize themselves with the legal expectations that come with sexual harassment law compliance specified by the Act (this includes employers headquartered outside Connecticut that employ workers in Connecticut).
The Employer's HR Department Must Investigate All Workplace Discrimination Complaints
Any claim of sexual harassment must be handled by the HR department of a company as Connecticut employers are legally obligated to follow up on allegations of this nature. Upon finding out about such an incident, employers must immediately act to ameliorate the problem by putting an instant stop to the identified inappropriate physical, verbal or visual behavior
or policy, investigating the incident, and making sure that existing employees, as well as new employees hired, are not in harm's way.
It Is Against The Connecticut Law for Employers To Retaliate against Employees Who File Discriminatory Practice Complaints
Connecticut Law prohibits Connecticut employers to retaliate in any way against an employee after a formal grievance has been filed with the CHRO, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or another human rights organization.
The Employer Must Adhere to New Posting Requirements for the Information Regarding Illegality of Sexual Harassment and Remedies Available to Victims
In accordance with the new law, beginning on October 1, 2019, the employer sexual harassment notice and posting requirements are stricter. Employers with three or more employees must provide each employee with the notice of the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims by both email and postal service, within three months of hire.
If some employees had not provided the employer with an email address, employers must use the company website to post the notice or provide a link to the CHRO web page.
Employers Are Required To Provide Sexual Harassment Training -- and Employees Are Required To Take It
As will be explained in the following section, employers with three or more employees have an obligation to institute training requirements for all employees, while smaller businesses are still responsible for providing training to all existing supervisory employees by October 1, 2020, or within six months of assuming the position.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Is Now the Law in Connecticut
The Time's Up Act ensures that, as of October 1, 2019, preventative sexual harassment training is conducted in virtually every business in the state of Connecticut.
All employers, regardless of business size, are required to provide two hours of sexual harassment training in Connecticut
to all supervisory employees
by October 1, 2020 (the deadline has since been extended to April 19, 2021), or within six months from the start date of the supervisory post. Employers with at least three employees are required to provide two hours of training to every existing employee, not just supervisory hires. New employees hired after October 1, 2019, must be trained within six months of hire.
The new training must provide clarification of federal and state laws against sexual harassment, types and definitions of the term "sexual harassment" and the remedies available to the victims as recourse. It can be offered in the form of online training as long as the employees are able to ask questions and get answers during online training sessions.
Periodic supplemental training must be updated and offered no less than once every ten years.Check out why EasyLlama was voted the best on-the-go sexual harassment training solution by The Balance SMB if you need help complying with the legal requirements.
Sexual Harassment Training as Sexual Harassment Prevention
Given the damaging effects on both, the victims of workplace abuse and the employers that end up paying the price of losing excellent workers and facing legal repercussions and fines, it is in everyone's best interest to provide sexual harassment prevention training to existing employees, as well as informing them of the illegality of sexual harassment and the remedies available to the victims -- in order to keep such incidents from happening in the first place. Employers must provide a minimum of two hours of training to each new employee within six months of hiring them and then ensure compliance with the training within the workforce.
The adapted sexual harassment training program should measure up to the highest standards and practices in the HR industry as well as be rooted in the most updated scientific knowledge. Last-century sensitivity training based on outdated values and old psychology does not work for sexual harassment prevention in the workplace. Only a training program built on the latest advances in science and software
can deliver the most effective and lasting outcome in sexual harassment prevention: by getting the message across in a clear, easily digestible, non-exhausting and entertaining manner, convenient to the mobile workforce.
sexual harassment training ensures that if / when the CHRO inspector drops in unannounced, they will observe a workforce of employees across all pay grades that do not bully, offend or make each other uncomfortable and, consequently, feel safe
in their place of work. Healthy company culture makes for contented employees and reflects positively on the productivity, reputation, and bottom line of the business.