A guide to US sexual harassment laws and training requirements by state

Currently, many states and localities in the US have sexual harassment training requirements, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois (plus Chicago), Maine, and New York State (plus New York City), with many more creating or changing their own. The language, timing, and other requirements vary, so organizations must be aware of the specific compliance needs for their programs. If your organization has employees in jurisdictions where harassment prevention training is required by law, it's important to make sure you're in compliance.  

We've summarized some of the harassment training requirements by each state to help you understand when anti-harassment training should be provided, how often harassment prevention training should be conducted, and other mandatory state elements.  

 

California harassment training requirements 

Laws against harassment 

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, including unwanted sexual advances or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on the employee's sex. The conduct doesn't have to be motivated by sexual desire, but can also be based on the worker's real or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or childbirth, and related medical conditions. 

Anti-harassment training 

California law requires all employers with more than five employees to provide training to its supervisory and non-supervisory employees on sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention. California harassment training requirements include: 

  • Non-supervisory employees must receive an hour of training every two years. 
  • Supervisory employees must receive two hours of training every two years. 
  • Training must include practical examples of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. 
  • Employers must provide all employees with a fact sheet or poster developed by the state's Civil Rights Department regarding sexual harassment, or equivalent information. 

 

Connecticut harassment training requirements  

Laws against harassment 

Conn. Gen. Stat. §46a-60(b)(8) defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature when: 

  • Submission to such conduct is explicitly or implicitly a condition of one's employment;  
  • Rejection of or submission to such conduct is used as a basis for making employment decisions regarding an individual; 
  •  Or the conduct interferes with an employee's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. 

When sexual harassment complaints are made in Connecticut, human rights authorities are authorized to award damages, including back pay, front pay, attorney's fees, and other costs. 

Anti-harassment training 

The Time's Up Act provides the following Connecticut harassment training requirements: 

  • All employers must provide new employees with information regarding the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims. 
  • All employers with more than three employees must provide anti-harassment training within six months of hire. 
  • All employers with fewer than three employees must provide mandatory harassment training to supervisors within six months of hire. 
  • Employers must provide supplemental training at least once every 10 years. 

 

Delaware harassment training requirements 

Laws against harassment 

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act (DDEA). It applies to employers with four or more employees—including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. In 2019, House Bill 360 expanded the definition of sexual harassment in the state law and provided new training requirements for employers. 

Anti-harassment training 

House Bill 360 requires Delaware employers to distribute the Department of Labor’s Sexual Harassment Notice to each new employee and existing employee. The notice explains sexual harassment, provides several examples, cautions against retaliation, and gives instructions on filing a complaint with the Department of Labor.

In addition, employers with 50 or more employees must provide sexual harassment training to full-time and part-time employees, seasonal or temporary employees, interns and apprentices, but not to independent contractors. According to Delaware harassment training requirements, the training must be interactive and cover: 

  • The illegality of sexual harassment 
  • The definition of sexual harassment, using examples 
  • The legal remedies and complaint process available to the employee
  • Directions on how to contact the Department of Labor
  • The legal prohibition against retaliation 

For supervisory or managerial employees, the training must include: 

  • The specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees regarding the prevention and correction of sexual harassment
  • The legal prohibition against retaliation 

 

Illinois and Chicago harassment training requirements  

Laws against harassment 

In Illinois, the state's Human Rights Act holds employers responsible for sexual harassment of both employees and non-employees that takes place in the workplace if they knew or had reason to know about the harassment, but failed to take action to protect the employee or non-employees from this behavior. Chicago, which has its own laws prohibiting sexual harassment, has recently expanded its definition of sexual harassment to include: 

  • Unwelcome sexual advances or sexual conduct of any nature when submission to such conduct is explicitly or implicitly implied to be a condition of an individual's employment;
  • Rejection or submission to such conduct is the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual;
  • Or such conduct substantially affects an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
  • Additionally, any behavior of a sexual nature that involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual's employment position is also considered sexual harassment. 

Anti-harassment training 

Every employer working in Illinois is required to provide sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis to their employees. The Illinois harassment training requirements include: 

  • An explanation of what sexual harassment is. 
  • Examples of what constitutes unlawful sexual harassment. 
  • The remedies available to workers who have been sexually harassed. 
  • A summary of the responsibilities that employers have to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment matters.  

 In Chicago, employers are required to provide: 

  • An hour of sexual harassment prevention training as well as an hour of bystander prevention every year; 
  • An additional hour of harassment prevention training for supervisors. 
  • A policy on sexual harassment that was put in place by July 1, 2022; 
  • And a posted written notice pertaining to sexual harassment, reporting procedures, and remedies available for workers. 

 

Maine harassment training requirements  

Laws against harassment 

Title 26 M.R.S.A. §807 requires employers of 15 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to all covered employees, including newly-hired or newly-promoted supervisory or managerial employees. The Maine Human Rights Commission states that interactive training is the most effective type of training, as long as it is high quality and allows employees to ask questions and receive answers. 

Anti-harassment training 

Employers must keep and maintain records of the sexual harassment training for at least three years, including, at a minimum, the names of participants, dates/times provided, and written materials received as part of the training. 

For newly hired employees, the training must include: 

  • A written notice of the illegality of sexual harassment. 
  • The definition of sexual harassment under state law.
  • A description of sexual harassment, utilizing examples.
  • The internal complaint process available to the employees.
  • The legal recourse and complaint process via the Maine Human Rights Commission.
  • Directions on how to contact the Commission.
  • The protection against retaliation pursuant to Title 5, §4553, subsection 10, paragraph D. 

For newly hired supervisory or managerial employees, the training must include: 

  • The specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees. 
  • Methods that supervisory and managerial employees must take to ensure immediate and appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints. 

  

New York State and New York City harassment training requirements  

Laws against harassment 

New York State passed its new Human Rights Law in 2019, which requires all employers to adopt a uniform sexual harassment policy and to provide a sexual harassment poster in the workplace, a fact sheet about sexual harassment to all new employees, and yearly harassment compliance training for all employees. In New York City, only employers with 15 or more employees are required to meet the yearly training requirement. 

Anti-harassment training 

Some of the harassment training requirements in New York and New York City include: 

  • The employer must keep records of an employee's anti-harassment training for three years. 
  • Training must be provided for full-time, short-term, and part-time employees, as well as interns, if they have worked for at least 90 days and work more than 80 hours in a calendar year. Independent contractors meeting these requirements must also obtain anti-harassment training. 
  • If an employee received training about sexual harassment by a previous employer within the calendar year, they are not required to undergo an additional training. 

 

Tips to making harassment prevention training effective  

If you live in a state where anti-harassment training is required, it is important to know how often harassment training should be provided, when anti-harassment training should be provided, and how to best present the information to your staff. Here are some tips for making your harassment prevention training more effective.

  • Explore gray areas. Exploring gray areas can help employees gain a deeper understanding of the issues being addressed. Show perspectives of different employees with contradictory points of view on various incidences of misconduct. Their vantage points can paint a realistic portrait of harassment, leaving employees better able to identify and respond to real issues in your organization.  

  • For important messages, show—don't tell. This can convey the importance of this urgent topic, making the material more memorable. One of our courses, for example, depicts a someone experiencing workplace bullying and their emotional reaction as the bullying they are subjected to becomes more and more hurtful. Showing the impact that misconduct has on people can help emphasize the emotional cost in a way that simple exposition couldn't.  That said, be mindful of what you depict; do not show something just for pure shock value.

  • Use interactive elements in training. Guided questioning, drag and drop activities, infographics, and short quizzes ensure that employees are retaining the content presented in these programs. While employees may absorb some of what they've learned by simply watching a video or listening to someone speak, it's difficult to measure whether the content is sticking.  
  • Encourage speaking up. Bystander training means an end to simply walking away from bad behavior and filing such incidents under "none of my business." Gone are the days of the innocent bystander. More than ever, reputation and credibility are everything. As an employee, it is everyone's responsibility to speak up, whether observing an improper remark, an ethically questionable alliance, or an illegal bribe. Reinforce this message alongside your topical trainings. Still, training alone won't change behavior or prevent misconduct. Your overall goal should be a respectful workplace where difficult conversations can be had and where disrespectful behavior won't be tolerated. There is no substitute for a culture of trust and respect, where employees feel comfortable speaking up and raising issues.  

 

The key takeaway  

No matter which state or locality they're in, everyone should have the right to work in an environment that is free of harassment, discrimination, and bullying. You can try LRN's anti-harassment and discrimination training courses for free instantly, including our course on preventing sexual harassment.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers should consult with their own attorney regarding legal matters.