States Are Beginning to Require Sexual Harassment Training

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, legislatures throughout the country have begun mandating sexual harassment training for all (or nearly all) workers and supervisors.

At present, five states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and New York) have enacted laws that mandate sexual harassment training for private sector employers.  Most require annual or biannual training for all employees, and include special instructions for supervisors/managers.  In the other 45 states, mandatory training is limited to governmental employees or the state simply recommends (but does not require) that the employer provide sexual harassment training.  Minnesota is one of the states that thus far has simply recommended training.

New Trends

In just the past year, both California and New York have passed extremely robust legislation requiring sexual harassment training.  Both require “interactive training,” which are specifically defined to exclude “watching a movie” or “reading a handout.”  California, which just beefed up its long-standing training requirements, goes so far as to specify that the training must be interactive, including responses to questions, skill-building activities, and hypotheticals.  California also mandates that the trainers must be an attorney, college professor, or an HR professional with at least 2 years of experience.

While there is no indication that this sort of legislation is actually in the works here in Minnesota, it would not be surprising to see a push for it in the next year or two.  Minnesota’s Human Rights Act has historically been among the first of the state discrimination laws to add protections for employees.  For example, reasonable accommodation for disabled persons and a ban on pregnancy discrimination were added to the Minnesota statute in the late 1970’s, well before their inclusion in federal legislation or the laws of most other states.  Mandatory sexual harassment seems like a likely candidate to continue that trend.

Bottom Line

Though not required just yet, Minnesota employers are well-advised to heed the call and implement (or continue) regular sexual harassment training for all employees and supervisors/managers. This will help build a better work culture while helping to avoid liability for sexual harassment claims – two very worthwhile goals.