#MeToo on the Move: Sexual Harassment Laws Impacting Employers.

Author:Sheridan, Robin
Position:Legal lines
 
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Ever since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements shined a national media spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace, state legislatures have passed bills regarding various aspects of sexual harassment.

The latest guidance may require employers to take additional action in developing policies and procedures related to sexual harassment, and training employees to respond to workplace issues and promote safe work environments. It is imperative that EA professionals are aware of these developments.

Legal Updates

In the past 30 months, elected officials in numerous states passed more than 260 laws directly addressing topics supported by anti-sexual harassment initiatives. Most of the proposals are related to the actions of legislators and government employees, but some are directed toward other employers--those in the private sector specifically. In summary:

* Twelve states (Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington) enacted laws that affect both private and public employers.

* Eight states (California, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New York, and Oregon) passed legislation that requires regular sexual harassment training for employees at various levels.

* Four (Maryland, New York, Vermont, and Washington) limited employers' ability to enforce mandatory arbitration for workplace sexual harassment claims in employee contracts. The impact of these legislative moves may be blunted by the Supreme Court of the U.S.'s decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis.

At the state and local levels, these laws have more variations, and the combination or types of laws indicate the direction or impact of certain industries, locales, and other factors. Hall Render attorneys surveyed a few states' legislative developments as examples.

California

S.B. 1300 is a comprehensive bill that creates and amends state laws on sexual harassment in the workplace. It went into effect on January 1, 2019. The bill makes it unlawful for employers to require employees to sign non-disparagement or other agreements prohibiting employees from disclosing unlawful acts in the workplace, including sexual harassment, as conditions of employment or continued employment.

The law also expands sexual harassment liability for employers where the harassment is committed by a non-employee, such as a customer or vendor, and limits employers' rights to fees as a prevailing defendant. The law...

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