What is Sexual Harassment?
The workforce is becoming more diverse, and it is important for all workplace employees to understand this important topic. What is sexual harassment? Harassment can be defined as unwanted sexual advances, sexual favors, and lewd or sexual jokes or comments according to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. Even though sexual harassment is illegal and unlawful within the U.S., different states have different laws and requirements for employees on training for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment and assault training not only helps employees avoid lawsuits and fines, but also keeps the workplace safe for all employees. The multicultural and multilingual nature of the workplace would advise most employers to include training in both English and Spanish. Most workplaces are required to post notices and posters in common spaces for employees such as common rooms and break areas.
What is Washington Senate Bill 5258?
In Washington State, this bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on May 12, 2019, Washington Hospitality Association. Bill 5258 helps protect certain isolated workers from sexual harassment, namely hotel and motel workers. This bill would help protect these isolated workers by giving these employees a panic button. This panic button would work by notifying a worker's emergency contacts of an emergency. For more information on specific information on the bill, as well as the companion bill for adult industry workers, information can be found at this website.
What are the Requirements for Washington?
Bill 5285 would cover workers who spend the majority of their time with two or fewer workers and includes janitors, security guards, hotel/motel housekeepers, and room service attendants. This bill also requires employees to develop a sexual harassment policy and mandates that all employees (including those in supervisory positions) attend trainings on sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination. Employees must be provided with a list of resources and contact information, including the information for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Washington employers are also required to give employees resources from the Washington State Human Rights Commission and other advocacy groups committed to preventing and stopping sexual harassment and assault.
This bill requires employers to adopt a sexual harassment policy and suggests that this policy follow a model policy and that the sexual harassment training follow these requirements: prevent sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, prevent sexual discrimination, and educate employees about reporting violations and protections to those who do report.
The Panic Button Requirement
This is a critical piece of information that is important in the bill. A panic button should be provided to all isolated employees. This idea was first introduced in Seattle for motels and hotels with sixty rooms or more. However, this bill would give a wider range for employees working with two or less co-workers. The Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) gave guidelines for panic buttons including: must be small and portable to be carried by the user (on lanyard, clip-ons, etc), use simple activation (push, pull, or tap) without delays of passwords or turning on the system, the signal must be effective in the circumstances, must summon immediate assistance and identify sender's location, must reliably work in all locations and devices must not insecure one another, and device must resist being disabled by attackers.
The DOSH guidelines also indicate what type of devices would be deemed ineffective as panic buttons such as cell phones, signaling devices, radios, and pagers.
Is Online Training Appropriate?
Washington State does not have specific definitions of what should be included in training for sexual harassment, however, many employees opt to use online training. Many workplaces use interactive training including having employees answer questions, role play, or do quizzes at the end of modules. Online training may be safer for more isolated employees, especially those working at late hours. Many different companies offer online training with specific regulations for Washington state and even in different counties. One such place that employers can use for their employees is EasyLlama.
EasyLlama is the best online platform for sexual harassment and discrimination training. Through our website, we make it easy for your organization to comply with the latest regulations on training. We offer these training sessions through quizzes and video episodes that are designed to be not only interactive but also well-divided, so that they can be watched on-the-go. The training sessions are divided into micro-sessions of 5-10 minutes that are relatable, educative, and entertaining.