Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

3/28/2019

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

metoo on keyboardIn 2017, the #Metoo movement swept through the U.S. bringing a fresh focus on sexual harassment in workplaces, but protections were in place before that.

In the late 1980’s, the Supreme Court interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination based on “sex” as sexual harassment in the workplace. The law recognizing sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as government and labor organizations.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of ways, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex from the harasser.
  • The harasser may be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a nonemployee, such as a vendor or customer.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

More than 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed with the EEOC in FY 2018. This was a 14 percent increase from the prior year. Due to the recent wave of sexual harassment accusations, many states are looking to go beyond federal regulations to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Some states have included “sex” in their discrimination laws as a protected class.

Depending on the specific state, “sex” protections can cover the prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace. Other states have explicitly included a prohibition of sexual assault in the workplace in their employment discrimination laws. Currently, 47 states prohibit “sex” discrimination. Twelve of these states cover sexual harassment under the protection against workplace discrimination based on sex. Twenty-four other states--plus D.C. and Puerto Rico--explicitly state that “sexual harassment” is not permitted in a workplace. Eight states go beyond prohibiting these practices by requiring employers to provide sexual harassment training in their workplaces.

Other states are looking for ways to ensure victims of sexual harassment in the workplace can report their accusations. Eleven states are currently working on legislation to prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements in situations involving workplace sexual misconduct. These states include: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Below is a chart of all 50 states and their current laws regarding sexual harrassment and sexual harrassment training in the workplace. 

STATE

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING

Alabama

No data

No data

Alaska

The Alaska State Commission for Human Rights considers sexual harassment to be prohibited under the state's fair employment practices law.

No data

Arizona

Sexual harassment is prohibited.

A nondisclosure agreement's terms can't be used to prohibit certain disclosures related to actual or alleged violations of Arizona criminal laws regarding sexual offenses or obscenity. Specifically, they can't prohibit a party from answering a peace officer's or prosecutor's inquiry or making a statement not initiated by the party in a criminal proceeding. These disclosures can't be used to avoid or invalidate a party's right to consideration under the agreement or to require a party to return consideration that has been provided (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-720).

No data

Arkansas

The Arkansas Supreme Court has held that sexual harassment is prohibited by the fair employment practices law (Island v. Buena Vista Resort, 352 Ark. 548, 103 S.W.3d 671 (2003)).

No data

California

Employers and their agents or supervisors can't sexually harass or allow the sexual harassment of employees, applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers, independent contractors, or nonemployees. Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, which includes training and educating supervisors on sexual harassment prevention

Until Jan. 1, 2019, employers must instruct supervisory employees on sexual harassment prevention. Specifically, employers must provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education to all new supervisory employees in California within six months after they assume a supervisory position and once every two years thereafter.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, employers must instruct supervisory and nonsupervisory employees on sexual harassment prevention by Jan. 1, 2020. Specifically, employers must provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education to all new supervisory employees in California, and at least one hour of such instruction to all new nonsupervisory employees in the state, within six months after they assume a position. [Note: An employer that provides this instruction to an employee after Jan. 1, 2019, isn't required to provide it again by the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline.] After Jan. 1, 2020, employers must provide this instruction to all employees in the state once every two years.

Supervisors aren't subject to the training requirements if they complied within the past two years through their current employer or a prior, alternate, or joint employer and they received, read, and acknowledged receipt of their current employer's anti-harassment policy within six months after assuming a new supervisory position or within six months after the employer became subject to the requirements. Their current employer has the burden of establishing such prior compliance.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, employers also must provide instruction on sexual harassment prevention to seasonal employees, temporary employees, and employees who are hired to work for less than six months.

New businesses must provide instruction on sexual harassment prevention within six months after they are established and once every two years thereafter. Established businesses that become subject to the training requirements must provide this instruction within six months after the requirements apply to them and once every two years thereafter.

Employers aren't liable to current or former employees and applicants, in any lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, solely based on a claim that they didn't receive the required instruction on sexual harassment prevention. Likewise, employers' compliance with the training requirements doesn't protect them from liability for sexual harassment.

Training format: Effective Jan. 1, 2019, employers can provide sexual harassment prevention training in conjunction with other training provided to employees. Employees can complete this training individually or as part of a group presentation, and they can complete it in segments if the total time requirement is met. Employers can develop their own training courses or direct employees to online training courses provided by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The department provides these courses on its website in English and various other languages. Employees who complete the required training can obtain a certificate of completion from the department.

Training content: California requires training on sexual harassment prevention to:

  • Help employers change workplace behavior that causes or contributes to unlawful sexual harassment.
  • Help supervisors prevent, respond to, address, and correct this behavior.
  • Inform supervisors about the negative impact of abusive conduct at the workplace (see “abusive conduct” below).

To meet these objectives, such training must at least cover:

  • A definition of unlawful sexual harassment under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • FEHA and Title VII statutory provisions and case law principles regarding the prohibition, prevention, and correction of unlawful sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
  • The types of conduct that constitute sexual harassment.
  • Available remedies for sexual harassment victims in lawsuits and potential liability for employers and individuals.
  • Strategies for preventing sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • Supervisors' obligation to report sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation when they become aware of it.
  • Practical examples of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation through training modalities such as role play, case studies, and group discussion.
  • The limited confidentiality of the complaint process.
  • Resources for sexual harassment victims (for example, instructions on how to report alleged sexual harassment).
  • Appropriate remedies for correcting sexually harassing behavior, including employers' obligation to effectively investigate complaints.
  • What to do if supervisors are accused of sexual harassment.
  • The essential elements of an anti-harassment policy and how to apply it if complaints are filed.
  • The definition of “abusive conduct” (see below).

Abusive conduct: Training on sexual harassment prevention also must address the prevention of abusive conduct in a meaningful way. Specifically, this training should:

  • Explain the negative impact of abusive conduct on the victims of such conduct, other people at the workplace, and employers.
  • Discuss the elements of abusive conduct (including the definition below).
  • Emphasize that a single act doesn't constitute abusive conduct, unless it is especially severe or egregious.

Abusive conduct is malicious conduct by employers or employees at the workplace if this behavior isn't related to employers' legitimate business interests and would be hostile or offensive to a reasonable person. It can include repeated verbal abuse such as derogatory remarks, insults, or epithets; verbal or physical conduct that would be threatening, intimidating, or humiliating to a reasonable person; and the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of employees' work performance.

Bystander intervention: Effective Jan. 1, 2019, training on sexual harassment prevention can, but isn't required to, include training on bystander intervention.

Sexual orientation and gender identity or expression: Training on sexual harassment prevention also must address harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and provide practical examples of this harassment.

This law also outlines who qualifies to be a trainer for “sexual harassment.”

Colorado

Employers and their agents or supervisory employees can't harass employees based on sex. Harassment is a form of discrimination. Harassment means severe or pervasive treatment that creates an objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment, regardless of whether tangible employment actions (such as loss of income) occur.

Sexual harassment that results in discrimination is prohibited. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is unlawful when submission to this conduct is an explicit or implicit requirement of employment or when employees and applicants are discriminated or retaliated against based on their response to the conduct.

No data

Connecticut

Fair employment practices law: Employers and their agents can't harass employees and applicants based on sex. Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Employees' and applicants' submission to this conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of their employment.
  • Employees' and applicants' submission to or rejection of this conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions that affect them.
  • This conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with employees' work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Interns: Employers and their agents can't sexually harass interns or internship applicants. Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Interns' and internship applicants' submission to this conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of their internship.
  • Interns' and internship applicants' submission to or rejection of this conduct is used as the basis for workplace decisions that affect them; or
  • This conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with interns' work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Interns are persons who perform work for employers for training purposes if:

  • Employers aren't committed to hiring them at the end of their training period.
  • They agree with employers that they aren't entitled to wages.
  • Their work supplements educational training in a way that might enhance their employability and provides them with beneficial experience.
  • Their work doesn't provide any immediate advantage to employers and might occasionally impede employer operations.
  • Their work is performed under the supervision of employers or employees and doesn't displace paid employees.

Employers must instruct new supervisors on sexual harassment prevention. Specifically, employers must provide at least two hours of training and education to all new supervisors of employees in Connecticut within six months after they assume a supervisory position. Training must be conducted in a classroom-like setting, use clear and understandable language, and allow participants to ask and receive answers to their questions. Audio, video, or other teaching aides are optional. Training can be provided by employers' own employees or other people.

Supervisors have the authority to hire, transfer, suspend, layoff, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline employees or the responsibility to direct them, adjust their grievances, or effectively recommend these actions. If an employer provided such instruction to a supervisor after Oct. 1, 1991, the employer isn't required to provide it to the supervisor a second time. Employers also aren't required to provide such instruction to supervisors who received it after that date if the instruction substantially complied with these training requirements.

Training content must:

  • Describe applicable federal and state laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, including Connecticut's Discriminatory Employment Practices Law (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60) and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.).
  • Define “sexual harassment” under Connecticut law (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(8)) and distinguish it from other forms of illegal harassment under state law.
  • Discuss types of conduct that might constitute illegal sexual harassment, including the fact that men or women can be harassers or victims of harassment and that harassment can occur between members of the same or opposite sex.
  • Describe remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, including cease-and-desist orders, back pay, compensatory damages, and hiring, promotion, or reinstatement.
  • Advise employees that people who commit sexual harassment can be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
  • Discuss strategies for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Training content also can:

  • Instruct supervisors to take all sexual harassment complaints seriously, report them immediately to employer-designated officials, keep them confidential, and only disclose them on a need-to-know basis.
  • Include experiential exercises such as role playing, coed group discussions, and behavior modeling to facilitate an understanding of what sexual harassment is and how to prevent it.
  • Teach the importance of listening and other interpersonal skills to better understand what a victim of sexual harassment might be experiencing.
  • Advise supervisors about the importance of preventive strategies to avoid the negative impact of sexual harassment on victims and overall workplace productivity due to interpersonal conflicts, poor performance, absenteeism, turnover, and grievances.
  • Explain the benefits of learning about and eliminating sexual harassment, including a more positive work environment with greater productivity and lower exposure to liability.
  • Explain employers' policy against sexual harassment, including complaint reporting procedures and disciplinary actions.
  • Discuss perception and communication differences among people in general and the concept of a “reasonable” person in federal sexual harassment cases.

The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities encourages employers to update supervisors, every three years, on legal interpretations and related developments regarding sexual harassment.

Delaware

The Delaware Office of Anti-Discrimination considers sexual harassment to be a form of sex discrimination under the state's fair employment practices law (Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, §§ 710 to 711).

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, sexual harassment of employees is unlawful when they are subject to conduct that includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature and:

  • Submission to this conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of their employment.
  • Submission to or rejection of this conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting them.
  • This conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with their work performance; or
  • This conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, employees include unpaid interns, applicants (as defined in Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709B), joint employees, and apprentices (who are learning a Delaware-licensed practice from a practitioner licensed in the applicable profession).

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, employers must provide interactive training and education on sexual harassment prevention to:

  • New employees within one year after their employment starts and every two years thereafter.
  • Existing employees within one year after Jan. 1, 2019, and every two years thereafter.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, employees are those who have been employed at least six months continuously. They include unpaid interns, joint employees, and apprentices (who are learning a Delaware-licensed practice from a practitioner licensed in the applicable profession), but don't include applicants (as defined in Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709B) or independent contractors (as defined in Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 3507).

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the training must cover:

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

(Note: If employers provided this training to employees before Jan. 1, 2019, no additional training is required until Jan. 1, 2020.)

Supervisors: Effective Jan. 1, 2019, employers must provide additional interactive training to:

  • New supervisors within one year after their supervisory employment starts and every two years thereafter.
  • Existing supervisors within one year after Jan. 1, 2019, and every two years thereafter.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, supervisors are people who are authorized to change employees' employment status or who direct employees' daily work activities.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the training must cover supervisors' specific responsibilities regarding the prevention and correction of sexual harassment and cover the prohibition against retaliation.

(Note: If employers provided this training to supervisors before Jan. 1, 2019, no additional training is required until Jan. 1, 2020.)

Florida

No data

No data

Georgia

No data

No data

Hawaii

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Interferes substantially with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Employers should affirmatively discourage sexual harassment by raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise the issue of sexual harassment and taking any other steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring.

No data

Idaho

 The Idaho Supreme Court has held that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under the fair employment practices law (Paterson v. State915 P.2d 724(1996)). The Idaho Human Rights Commission also considers sexual harassment to be a form of sex discrimination under the fair employment practices law.

No data

Illinois

Employers and their employees and agents can't sexually harass employees and applicants. Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors, sexual advances, or any conduct of a sexual nature a term or condition of employment.
  • Makes submission to or rejection of a request for sexual favors, sexual advances, or any conduct of a sexual nature a basis for employment decisions.
  • Interferes substantially with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

No data

Indiana

No data

No data

Iowa

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission considers harassment based on sex to be a form of prohibited discrimination under the fair employment practices law.

No data

Kansas

No data

No data

Kentucky

The Kentucky Supreme Court has held that sexual harassment is prohibited by the fair employment practices law (Meyers v. Chapman Printing Co.840 S.W.2d 814 (1992)).

No data

Louisiana

No data

No data

Maine

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors and comments, jokes, acts, or other verbal or physical conduct that is of a sexual nature or directed at employees based on their sex. Sexual harassment is unlawful when:

  • Employees' submission to this conduct is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of their employment.
  • Employees' submission to or rejection of this conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions that affect them; or
  • This conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with employees' work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment for them.

If employment opportunities or benefits are granted because of an employee's submission to an employer's sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, the employer can be liable for unlawful sex discrimination against other qualified employees who were denied those opportunities or benefits.

It is also unlawful for anyone to aid, abet, incite, compel, or coerce another person to commit sexual harassment; obstruct or prevent another person from complying with the sexual harassment prohibitions or any related orders; or try to commit these acts or other unlawful acts under the prohibitions.

The Maine Human Rights Commission advises employers to take steps to prevent unlawful sexual harassment, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise the issue and how to raise it, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned parties.

At workplaces with 15 or more employees, employers must conduct training on sexual harassment prevention for all new employees within one year after their employment starts. This training must cover:

  • The illegality of sexual harassment.
  • The definition of “sexual harassment” under Maine law and federal laws and regulations.
  • A description of sexual harassment, using examples.
  • The internal complaint process.
  • The legal recourse and complaint process available through the Maine Human Rights Commission.
  • Directions on how to contact the commission.
  • Protections against retaliation.

Employers must conduct additional training for supervisory and managerial employees within one year after their employment starts. At a minimum, this training must cover their specific responsibilities and measures they must take to ensure immediate, appropriate corrective action in response to sexual harassment complaints.

Employers must use a compliance checklist provided by the Maine Department of Labor to develop their training program.

Maryland

 The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights considers sexual harassment to be prohibited under the fair employment practices law.

A provision in an employment contract, policy, or agreement that waives any right or remedy to a future claim of sexual harassment, or of retaliation for reporting or asserting a right or remedy based on sexual harassment, is null and void except as prohibited by federal law.

No data

Massachusetts

Employers and their agents can't subject employees to sexual harassment. Employers must promote a workplace free of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment means sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to or rejection of such advances, requests, or conduct is an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment or basis for employment decisions; or
  • Such advances, requests, or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee's work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or sexually offensive work environment.

Employers are encouraged to conduct an education and training program on sexual harassment prevention for new employees within one year after they start employment.

Employers also are encouraged to conduct additional training for new supervisory and managerial employees within one year after they start employment. This training should include their specific responsibilities and the procedures they should follow to ensure immediate, appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

Michigan

Employers can't discriminate against employees and applicants based on sex. Discrimination based on sex includes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct or communications of a sexual nature where:

  • Submission to such conduct or communications is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition for obtaining employment.
  • A person's submission to or rejection of such conduct or communications is used as a factor in decisions affecting the person's employment.
  • Such conduct or communications have the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a person's employment; or
  • Such conduct or communications have the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

No data

Minnesota

Employers are prohibited from sexually harassing employees and applicants. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Interferes substantially with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

No data

Mississippi

No data

No data

Missouri

Harassment based on sex is prohibited. Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to this conduct is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment.
  • Employees' and applicants' submission to or rejection of this conduct is a basis for employment decisions that affect them; or
  • This conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with employees' work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

In determining whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights looks at the nature of the sexual advances, the context of the conduct, and other circumstances.

No data

Montana

No data

No data

Nebraska

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

No data

Nevada

The Nevada Equal Rights Commission considers sexual harassment to be a form of sex discrimination.

No data

New Hampshire

Sexual harassment is prohibited as a form of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if:

  • Submission to this conduct is an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment.
  • Submission to or rejection of this conduct is the basis of employment decisions; or
  • This conduct unreasonably interferes with employees' work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Employers can't aid, abet, incite, compel or coerce anyone to engage in sexual harassment or try to do so. They also can't obstruct or prevent anyone's compliance with the sexual harassment prohibitions or related orders.

No data

New Jersey

New Jersey fair employment practices law prohibits harassment based sex, although sexual harassment isn't specifically mentioned in the law. According to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual relations, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when employers or their agents implicitly or explicitly try to make submission to sexual demands a condition of employment.

Hostile work environment harassment occurs when employees are subject to sexual, abusive, or offensive conduct because of their gender and this conduct is severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person believe that employment conditions have changed and the working environment has become hostile or abusive; the conduct doesn't have to be sexual in nature and doesn't have to involve physical contact.

No data

New Mexico

Sexual harassment is prohibited as a form of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment means unwanted or repeated physical or verbal acts that are sexual in nature, including sexual advances, sexual conduct, verbal or nonverbal sexual suggestions, sexual ridicule, or sexual innuendo for the purpose of affecting employees' status related to compensation or terms and conditions of employment.

No data

New York

Sexual harassment of employees, applicants, interns, and nonemployees is prohibited. Certain contract clauses or provisions are prohibited if they require arbitration to resolve allegations or claims of unlawful sexual harassment. A resolution of a sexual harassment claim can't include a term or condition that would prevent disclosure of the claim's underlying facts and circumstances, unless the complainant prefers such confidentiality.

Effective Oct. 9, 2018, employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees on an annual basis. Employers can use the New York State Department of Labor's model training program, or their own training program if it meets or exceeds the department's minimum standards.

Effective Oct. 9, 2018, the training program must be interactive and include:

  • An explanation of sexual harassment, consistent with department-issued guidance.
  • Examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment.
  • Information on federal and state laws regarding sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.
  • Information on employees' right to pursue remedies for sexual harassment.
  • Information on all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints.
  • Information addressing supervisors' conduct and responsibilities regarding sexual harassment.

(Note: All employees must complete initial sexual harassment prevention training before Oct. 9, 2019.)

North Carolina

No data

No data

North Dakota

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Substantially interferes with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

No data

Ohio

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

No data

Oklahoma

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to requests for sexual favors or sexual advances a term or condition of employment.
  • Unreasonably interferes with employees' work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

The Oklahoma Office of Civil Rights Enforcement considers the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature and context in which the alleged incidents occurred, on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment.

No data

Oregon

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Makes submission to or rejection of a sexual advance the basis of employment decisions; or
  • Is sufficiently severe or pervasive to cause unreasonable interference with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

The standard for determining whether sexual harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment is whether a reasonable person would perceive the situation in the same way as the complaining employee.

No data

Pennsylvania

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

The Human Relations Commission considers the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature and context in which the alleged incidents occurred, on a case-by-case basis in determining whether the alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment.

No data

Rhode Island

Fair employment practices law: Harassment based on sex violates the fair employment practices law. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute “sexual harassment” when they meet that definition under the sexual harassment law (see below). Employers should take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise and how to raise the subject, and developing methods to sensitize all relevant parties.

Sexual harassment law: Employers must promote a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such advances, requests, or conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of employment.
  • Employees' and applicants' submission to or rejection of such advances, requests, or conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions that affect them; or
  • Such advances, requests, or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with employees' work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment law: Employers are encouraged to conduct an education and training program on sexual harassment prevention for new employees within one year after their employment starts. At a minimum, this program should provide the information that must be included in the required employer policy against sexual harassment.

Employers also are encouraged to conduct additional training for new supervisors and managers within one year after their employment starts. At a minimum, this training should:

  • Provide the information that must be included in the required employer policy against sexual harassment.
  • Identify supervisors' and managers' specific responsibilities regarding sexual harassment.
  • Identify the steps they should take to ensure immediate and appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

South Carolina

No data

No data

South Dakota

No data

No data

Tennessee

Sexual harassment is prohibited.  The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that sexual harassment is prohibited by the fair employment practices law (Campbell v. Fla. Steel Corp.919 S.W.2d 26 (1996); Parker v. Warren Cnty. Util. Dist.2 S.W.3d 170 (1999)). The Tennessee Human Rights Commission also considers harassment based on sex to be a form of prohibited discrimination under the law.  Employers can't require employees and applicants to enter into or renew nondisclosure agreements regarding workplace sexual harassment as a condition of employment. For more information, see Tennessee Sexual Harassment.

No data

Texas

Sexual harassment of unpaid interns is prohibited.

Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such advances, requests or conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of the internship.
  • Submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is used as a basis for decisions affecting the internship; or
  • Such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with interns' work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Unpaid interns are interns:

  • Whose internship is similar to training that would occur in an educational environment, even though it involves employer operations or performing work for employers.
  • Whose internship experience is for their own benefit.
  • Who do not displace regular employees, but work under the close supervision of existing staff.
  • Whose internship activities do not provide any immediate advantage to employers and occasionally might impede employer operations.
  • Who are not entitled to wages for time spent in their internship nor a job at the end of their internship.

No data

Utah

Sexual harassment is prohibited as a form of discrimination. Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submitting to this conduct is an explicit or implied term or condition of employment.
  • Submitting to or rejecting this conduct is a basis for employment decisions; or
  • This conduct unreasonably interferes with employees' work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

No data

Vermont

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and employers have an obligation to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment. Employers can't require employees and applicants to sign agreements or waivers that restrict them from opposing, disclosing, reporting, or participating in investigations of sexual harassment or that waive certain rights or remedies regarding sexual harassment claims. Agreements to settle sexual harassment claims are subject to certain restrictions and requirements.

Employers are encouraged to conduct an education and training program on sexual harassment prevention for new employees within one year after their employment starts and for all employees annually. At a minimum, this program should cover the information outlined in Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 495h.

Employers also are encouraged to conduct additional training for new supervisory and managerial employees within one year after their employment starts. At a minimum, this training should cover the information outlined in Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 495h, their specific responsibilities, and actions they must take to ensure immediate, appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

The Vermont attorney general's office can require employers to provide an education and training program on sexual harassment prevention to all employees annually for up to three years if it determines, after an inspection, that this program is necessary to ensure that their workplace is free from sexual harassment. Additionally or as an alternative, the attorney general can require these employers to conduct an anonymous working-climate survey annually for up to three years. (For information on inspections, see “Administration/Enforcement.”) At a minimum, the program:

  • For all employees must cover the information outlined in Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 495h.
  • For supervisory and managerial employees must cover the information outlined in Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 495h, their specific responsibilities, and actions they must take to ensure immediate, appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

Virginia

Nondisclosure agreements: Effective July 1, 2019, employers can't require employees or applicants, as a condition of employment, to sign or renew any provision in a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement that has the purpose or effect of concealing details related to certain sexual assault claims (those under Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-6118.2-67.118.2-67.3, or 18.2-67.4). Any such provisions are void and unenforceable.

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Washington

Sexual harassment is prohibited. Employers can't require employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, waivers, or other documents that prevent them from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace, at work-related events coordinated by or through employers, between employees, between an employer and an employee, or off employer premises. Employers also can't retaliate against employees for disclosing or discussing such sexual harassment or sexual assault.

Sexual harassment is defined in Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.640.020Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the recipient's explicit consent. Sexual contact is defined in Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.44.010.

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West Virginia

Conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment.
  • Unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

The Human Rights Commission considers the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature and context in which the alleged incidents occurred, on a case-by-case basis in determining whether the alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment.

The commission also examines whether the sexual harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive, including whether it involved:

  • Unwanted physical touching.
  • Offensive or threatening verbal abuse.
  • Unwelcome and consistent sexual innuendo or physical contact.

The frequency of unwelcome and offensive encounters is also taken into account, as well as whether other employees suffered harassment.

Hostile or physically aggressive behavior that includes unwanted sexual conduct also can be considered sexual harassment if it was a form of gender-based discrimination.

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Wisconsin

Employers and their agents, including managers and supervisors, are prohibited from sexually harassing employees and applicants. Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct that involves sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, physical contact of a sexual nature or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment; it includes conduct directed by a person at another person of the same or opposite sex.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that includes:

  • Implicitly or explicitly making submission to sexual harassment a term or condition of employment.
  • Making employment decisions based in any part on employees' submission to or rejection of sexual harassment.
  • Permitting sexual harassment that interferes substantially with employees' work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
  • Unwelcome verbal or physical conduct directed at employees because of their gender that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment or interferes substantially with such employees' work performance.

Sexual harassment interferes substantially with employees' work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment if a reasonable person would consider the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive.

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Wyoming

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Source: Bloomberg Law

Please note NCSL cannot provide advice or assistance to private citizens or businesses regarding employment-related matters. Please consult your state department of labor or a private attorney.

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