Nov 15, 2019 General Employment Issues

Connecticut Employers Must Comply With Expanded Training and Notice Requirements Regarding the Prevention of Sexual Harassment

Connecticut employers must comply with new training and notice requirements under Connecticut’s Time’s Up Act.  This new law, which expands employee protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, took effect on October 1, 2019.   

Training Obligations

Employers with Three or More Employees:

Connecticut employers with three or more employees must provide two hours of interactive training to all employees regarding the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.  This training must address the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.  Under the prior law, such training was only mandatory for supervisors working for Connecticut employers with 50 or more employees.   

This training must be provided by the following deadlines:

  • Current Employees: Employers must ensure that all current employees are trained by October 1, 2020.  However, if an employer has provided sexual harassment prevention training to any current employee after October 1, 2018, the employer will not be required to retrain such individuals prior to October 1, 2020.
  • New Employees: New employees hired on or after October 1, 2019 must be trained within six months of their hire.

Employers with Less Than Three Employees:

Connecticut employers with less than three employees must provide this training to their Connecticut supervisory employees

  • Current Supervisory Employees: Current supervisory employees must be trained by October 1, 2020.  However, if an employer has provided sexual harassment training to supervisory employees after October 1, 2018, the employer will not be required to retrain such individuals prior to October 1, 2020.
  • New Supervisory Employees: All new supervisory employees must be trained within six months of their hire or assumption of a supervisory position.

This law also requires employers to provide periodic supplemental sexual harassment training and education to all covered employees at least once every ten years. 

The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“Commission”) has developed an online training and education video that fulfills the new law’s training requirements.  This training is available on the Commission’s website, at:  Employers, however, are not required to utilize the Commission’s training, and may conduct their own training as long as their training is interactive and covers the necessary subject matter. 

Notice Requirements

Previously, Connecticut employers with three or more employees were required to post, in a prominent and accessible location, information concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment. 

This new law expands upon this obligation, by requiring that these covered employers also distribute such information to employees, no later than three months after an employee’s start date, by e-mail with a subject line that contains the words “Sexual Harassment Policy” (or “words of similar import”), if the employer provides employees with an e-mail account, or if the employee has provided the employer with an e-mail address.  If an employer has not provided an e-mail account to employees, the employer must also post this information on the employer’s website, if the employer maintains one.  An employer may also comply with this new requirement by providing an employee with a link to the Commission’s website regarding the illegality of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.  This link may be provided by e-mail, text message or another writing.

Additional Protections in This New Law

This new law also includes additional protections for employees:

Protection Against Retaliation:  Under this new law, if an employee complains about sexual harassment, the employer cannot immediately change the complaining employee’s work location, schedule, or other substantive terms and conditions of employment, as a way to respond to the harassment (i.e., a “corrective action”), unless the complaining employee agrees, in writing, to any such modification.  This restriction is designed to prevent a complaining employee from being treated adversely in response to making a complaint of harassment.

Increased Statute of Limitations for Filing Claims with the Commission:  Under this new law, employees will have 300 days to file a claim of discrimination with the Commission, for acts that occurred on or after October 1, 2019.  Previously, this time limit was 180 days. 

Expanded Damages: If an employer is found liable for sexual harassment in a private litigation, this new law permits the plaintiff to recover punitive damages from the employer (i.e., damages awarded to punish the employer).  The Commission also now has the power to award attorneys’ fees to prevailing plaintiffs in actions brought before the Commission.

Penalties for Non-Compliance with Training and Notice Obligations: If an employer fails to provide the training and notices required under this law, the employer may be fined up to $1,000.  It is unclear whether this fine is imposed per employee (who was not trained or did not receive the necessary materials).  This new law also provides that a representative of the Commission may be assigned to enter an employer’s place of business during normal business hours to ensure that the employer is complying with the law’s notice requirements and examine records, policies, postings and training materials maintained by the employer.  The actions of this Commission representative, however, must not unduly disrupt the business operations of the employer.

Next Steps

Connecticut employers should review their current new hire practices and training programs and ensure that:

  • they are providing the notices required under this new law to all covered employees, in accordance with the law’s requirements; and
  • are providing the required training to the employees covered by the law, by the deadlines required under the law.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions.