Workplace sexual harassment remains a major problem, and many companies large and small struggle to deal with it. The issue has only gained renewed prominence in the past few years with the advent of the MeToo movement. Recently, the Connecticut General Assembly passed sweeping legislation to reform and update the state’s sexual harassment laws. The so-called “Time’s Up Act” is expected to be signed into law. Here’s what the law means for employers and employees alike.
The Time’s Up Act addresses sexual assault and requires new training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Passed in a response to sexual harassment scandals from Hollywood to the Catholic Church, the legislation has four main components:
Expanded sexual harassment training
Under current law, only companies with at least 50 employees have to provide sexual harassment training. Now, employers with three or more employees are required to provide it. The goal of this part of the law is to make sure employees know their rights when experiencing sexual harassment. It also helps other employees who witness such behavior to know what to do.
One important detail of this part of the law is that training materials must be made available online. This is intended to address concerns that the training requirement is too expensive for businesses to comply with it.
Expanded time frame to file a complaint
The law expands the time in which to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. It also empowers the CHRO to seek punitive damages in some situations. For instance, failure to train employees about sexual harassment could expose a company to civil prosecution by the CHRO. Employers must train all employees, not just supervisors.
The extended time period for criminal prosecutions
The proposed law makes extensive changes to the state’s statute of limitations concerning sexual assault and related crimes. It eliminates the current statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual assault committed against minors. Also, a rape victim will now be protected by a 20-year statute of limitations, up from the current 5 years. This applies to forced rape as well as rape by drugs. The 5-year statute of limitations was one of the lowest in the country.
Finally, certain crimes such as unwanted touching can now be prosecuted up to 10 years later. This is an extension from the current 1-year statute of limitations.
The extended time period for civil actions
The new legislation will also affect the statute of limitations for civil cases involving sexual assault. Victims under age 21 will have thirty years – until their 51st birthday – to file a civil suit.
A task force will also be established to look into what other states have done concerning their statutes of limitations. Sexual abuse survivors will be among the members of this task force.
The new time frames for civil and criminal penalties could affect businesses, not just individuals. Combined with the other parts of the law, victimized employees will be encouraged to speak up. Business owners and employees alike should understand the new law and its implications.
A Connecticut Business Attorney Can Navigate the Changing Legal Landscape
The Time’s Up Act hasn’t been signed into law, so changes could be made before it reaches the governor’s desk. But it’s pretty evident that the changing times are now catching up with Connecticut. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, businesses will need to adapt to the new legal environment. Workers will hopefully be aware of their new rights and will be encouraged to tell someone if they’re being harassed.
If you have questions about the legislation and what it means for your business or your employment, we can help. Contact the attorneys at Aeton Law Partners today.