Workplace Harassment

Harassment is one of the ugliest and most outdated aspects of modern society. In today’s world, space for harassment to exist unquestioned and unpunished has shrunk by a very large margin. Social justice movements such as the #MeToo campaign have gained traction not just in the United States but all over the world.

At the same time, widespread access to education and social platforms has shaped the opinions of people to offer no tolerance to harassment in any shape or form. The ensuing saga of many powerful people in various industries and fields finally having to face the music is a direct result of both of these ingredients.

Workplace Harassment and Prevention Training

The flurry of widespread anti-harassment legislation across many states in the US has been the most positive outcome of this renewed focus. It bears mentioning that an independent study by the non-profit organization Stop Street Harassment unveiled nearly 14% of Americans have experienced workplace harassment in some form.

With the significance of these workplace statistics and growing pressure from anti-harassment groups, a large chunk of the US now has state-level policies and compliance requirements to make workplaces safer and harassment-free.

State legislation policies and best practice recommendations are a huge step forward for workforces all over the country. They form arguably one of the first major concrete shifts to safer workplaces for all workers. Many of these policies and recommendations address one important aspect: prevention training for government and private employees, including temps in many cases. However, before examining what compliance requirements and optional recommendations various states offer, employers first need to understand prevention training responsibility. This blog focuses on the following areas:

  1. Understanding Prevention Training How Temp Workers Factor In
  2. States That Make Prevention Training Mandatory For All Workers
  3. States That Recommend But Don’t Mandate Training
  4. States That Make Prevention Training Mandatory For Only State Workers
  5. States That Don’t Currently Have Mandatory Prevention Training Requirements

Let’s start right away.

Understanding Prevention Training How Temp Workers Factor In

Workplace conflicts are not rare. In many cases, healthy conflicts can often act as growth catalysts for both teams and individuals. However, certain forms of conflicts, such as those arising from sexual harassment in the workplace, are dangerous red flags. They can often indicate gaps in the underlying company policy, especially concerning preventing and punishing such instances. For virtually any employer in the twenty-first century, these gaps are not just negligence, but can also potentially result in very costly litigation or settlements to aggrieved parties, to say nothing of the non-monetary costs such as bad publicity, the damage to your employer brand, and your credibility taking a massive hit.

Remember: harassment in the workplace doesn’t just impact your current workforce but your chances of securing future talent as well. Given the widespread visibility of social media and the “viral” phenomenon, the fallout could quickly spiral out of your control. Imagine if every potential candidate’s first impression of your brand was that you overtly or covertly tolerate harassment. The damage to your future ability to reliably source valuable talent could be catastrophic. That and expanding compliance requirements is why so many businesses are now working on prevention training for employees on their payroll.

However, when it comes to temp workers, the responsibility for prevention training can often become a grey area. Should the employer be making arrangements? Or should the staffing company ensure prevention training beforehand? Unfortunately, there is no answer to this that fits every organization in every state. If a state classifies a temp under its definition of “employee”, and mandates prevention training, employers will most likely have to follow suit.

Not doing so would likely encourage a legal notice from a workplace harassment lawyer representing one of your workers, but this may not be the case in a state that does not mandate prevention training for private sector organizations. Certain states have no mandatory prevention guidelines, replacing them with strong recommendations instead. Of course, we already see major temp staffing services such as mortgage staffing solutions putting prevention training programs in place.

In fact, the American Staffing Association has already created a standardized training program for all staffing firms to follow. What really matters is the guidance that state laws and recommendations lay down. We deal with these in the following sections.

States That Make Prevention Training Mandatory For All Workers

OSHA guidelines from the US Department of Labor also deals with occupational health and safety for temp workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration pays particular attention to protecting temp workers from being used by employers to dodge several OSH Act compliances. While the Act does not directly relate to harassment prevention training for temps, it does make one thing clear. Temps may not always be the same as a contractual or a permanent employee, but they are still deserving of the same protection offered by OSHA.

One of the reasons to include temp workers clearly under OSHA rules is their vulnerability. Unlike permanent or legacy employees, temp or seasonal workers usually have no prior interaction with an employer or workplace when they join it. There have been known instances of temps being denied adequate safety and health protection, as well as greater chances of retaliation to their concerns. OSHA strongly requires adequate protection for temp workers not just from the host employer but the temporary staffing firm as well.

One of the primary responsibilities OSHA lays down for employers is to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards”. From an examination of modern workplace harassment definitions, it is fairly obvious that the International Labor Organization is right in classifying harassment as a serious mental health hazard. This forms the foundation of expansive legislation related to harassment-free workplaces in various states following legislation on the federal level.

Whether it involves workplace bullying, sexual discrimination, or even abuse, harassment is undesirable because it directly harms employee wellbeing. By far, one of the most effective ways to make it difficult for harassment to exist and thrive in the workplace is to offer prevention training to all employees, including vulnerable temp workers. Here are major US states that have created legislation that specifically relates to offering harassment prevention training to temp workers:

California

Workplace harassment in California is seeing a decline because of well-structured legislation. SB-1343 directly deals with sexual harassment training for workers and makes it mandatory for employers to offer the same to temp workers. The bill directly includes “temporary or seasonal employees” to receive the training within 30 days or 100 working hours from the date of their hire. In cases of firms that offer temp staffing services, the responsibility of the training is with the firm, not the host employer. The guidelines go on to define the essential contents of the prevention training, something which is not as common with other state legislations.

Connecticut

Connecticut also mandates prevention training for temp workers. This is part of the Time’s Up Act introduced in 2019. The Act made significant changes to several processes in the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities while establishing new compliance requirements and rules relating to harassment, workplace investigations, and of course, prevention training. These rules apply to every employer in the state with three or more workers.

Delaware

The state of Delaware makes it compulsory for employers to offer harassment training to all workers including temp workers. It further mandates for employers with more than 50 workers to offer both education and interactive training on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Furthermore, the state requires all employers to put each employee through prevention training and education within the first year of their hire.

In addition, the comprehensive amendment to the Delaware Code also makes it mandatory for employers to notify employees (including temp employees) of their right to a harassment-free workplace. However, the amendment does not address whether overzealous workplace surveillance qualifies as harassment.

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia introduced the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Act in 2018. Mainly dealing with tipped workers, the Act also makes it mandatory for employers to offer harassment prevention training to all workers, as well as educating them on their responsibility to intervene in such instances. The Act also allows for the training sessions to be conducted online, but stipulates that new employees should be put through training within 90 days of being hired.

Hawaii

The State of Hawaii’s Administrative Rules includes temp workers for mandatory prevention training based on its view that prevention is the best way to combat workplace harassment. These rules make it mandatory for employers to address workplace harassment issues, apply appropriate sanctions, and express clear disapproval. It also makes it mandatory for employers to educate employees on their right to raise harassment complaints as well as how to prevent harassment in the workplace.

Maine

Employers are required by Maine state law to make comprehensive efforts to ensure workplaces where employees are safe from sexual harassment. The law requires employers to place visible notices stating the illegality of such acts, and educate employees on all aspects that qualify as sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are also required to create processes to handle complaints on priority and with transparency. At the same time, it mandates comprehensive education and training on preventing such instances to all workers, including temps.

Massachusetts

The state’s Fair Employment Practices Act comprehensively addresses the necessity of mandatory prevention training for all workers, including temp workers. The state requires all employers to conduct a comprehensive training and education session within one year of hiring a new worker. The law also encourages stakeholders like labor unions, relevant state agencies, and employers to work together on developing appropriate training programs.

New York

New York state workplace harassment laws require employers to offer interactive and comprehensive training on sexual harassment prevention annually since 2019. The guidelines go on to define the specifics of the training program and what they should cover in detail. Temp workers also qualify for mandatory training. The state has enacted a structured program for strengthened protection and prevention.

States That Recommend But Don’t Mandate Training

The states we discussed in the previous sections are ones with legislation that specifically make workplace harassment prevention mandatory for all employees including temps. In these states, employers need to make arrangements to offer training sessions to remain compliant with state employment laws. However, certain state laws such as Ohio’s workplace harassment laws don’t make prevention training in the workplace a mandatory compliance factor for employers in the private sector.

Of course, by no means does that mean sexual or other forms of harassment are any less illegal in these states. They still strongly encourage employers to offer prevention training to all employers but haven’t yet formally legislated to make it compulsory in the workplace. State law recommends employers to educate and train employees concerning sexual harassment in the workplace, but don’t actively make it mandatory in:

  1. Rhode Island
  2. Vermont
  3. Idaho
  4. Ohio
  5. Oregon
  6. South Dakota

States That Make Prevention Training Mandatory For Only State Workers

Several states have legislation in place that deals with mandatory prevention training but it applies only to state employees. Employers are not strictly required by law to have training programs and processes in place. However, depending on the state, the mandatory training for state employees also includes interns and temp executives working for the state. These states include the following:

Texas

Workplace harassment in Texas is a serious and punishable offense. The state Labor Code is a comprehensive piece of legislature that deals with employee rights, including things such as workplace discrimination, harassment, and working conditions. However, as of the time of this article, the state currently makes harassment prevention training mandatory only for state agencies.

Utah

Like Texas, Utah makes prevention training mandatory for all state employees. However, also like Texas, it does not yet require private-sector employers to comply with these training sessions. That does not mean in any way that the state tolerates or encourages workplace harassment. It is illegal and will still result in serious legal consequences, even if the law does not specifically make training mandatory.

Virginia

The State of Virginia enacted new laws relating to sexual harassment in the workplace that came into effect in January 2019. The state Human Rights Division offers extensive information on preventive training and education. Sexual harassment is a serious violation of the human rights of any employee in the state of Virginia. However, as of now, state law only makes training mandatory for employees of state agencies.

Washington

All employees of the State of Washington and its agencies are required to take mandatory sexual harassment training as a part of laws addressing workplace harassment in Washington state. The state does not formally require private-sector employers to comply with the Executive Order governing this. However, while still at the employer’s discretion, the state’s Human Rights Commission offers details on preventive training as best practices.

West Virginia

West Virginia has one of the strongest and most comprehensive state policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment in state agencies. Part of this policy is making prevention training mandatory for all people employed by the state or its agencies. However, the state does not make the same compulsory for private employers.

Illinois

Illinois harassment laws for the workplace deal extensively with training all public employees regarding the prevention of harassment in any state agency or department. The Illinois Human Rights Act requires every department to have a formal harassment policy and a process to penalize any perpetrators. It also requires state agencies to include legal recourse as part of the policy they develop.

The agency is also required to make this policy available to all employees, including temporary workers, and is further required to make the document understandable at a 6th Grade reading level. However, the state currently does not include mandatory training as compliance for private-sector firms.

Kansas

The Kansas Human Rights Commission has created a formalized training program for preventing harassment. However, the state currently only makes the annual training compulsory for state employees, including interns. The training program can still be accessed online and used by private employers, though the state does not make it mandatory.

Pennsylvania

Workplace harassment in PA is addressed comprehensively as illegal and inexcusable. However, as far as mandatory training is concerned, it is currently only required for public employees. The state Office of Administration offers a detailed training program to be used by state agencies but does not require private-sector employers to follow it.   

Tennessee

The Tennessee Code mandates prevention training for all people employed by the state or its agencies. In addition, it requires the state Human Resources Department to help all state entities develop and plan appropriate preventive programs. However, the same is not mandatory for non-state employers.   

Kentucky

Kentucky state laws require every state employee to receive prevention training once every two years. There is no corresponding requirement for private-sector workers.

Louisiana

The state introduced a new law effective January 2019, making sexual harassment prevention training mandatory for state workers. Every worker is required to attend a mandatory 1-hour session at least once a year. However, the state does not make preventive training mandatory for private-sector workplaces.

Mississippi

An online sexual harassment prevention course has been made mandatory by a Governor’s Executive order in Mississippi. However, it is currently only mandatory for state personnel. The state does not require private-sector workers to go through the training.

Nevada

Nevada requires all state employees to go through a formal preventive training session at most 6 months after their employment begins. The state also mandates refresher courses once every two years. However, private-sector employers are not expressly required to comply.

North Carolina

North Carolina has no formal compliances requiring private-sector workers to go through mandatory harassment prevention training and education. However, it requires all state agencies to develop and implement effective training procedures to prevent harassment in public workplaces. The Office of State Human Resources deals with this in detail.

New Jersey

The State of New Jersey requires all state personnel to attend a mandatory course dealing with identifying and preventing workplace discrimination and harassment. Private-sector workers are no required to do so. However, the Office of the Attorney General, when discussing workplace harassment in NJ, offers insights with a New Jersey Supreme Court case that asks courts to examine whether an employer offered training sessions when determining if the said employer has been negligent in prevention efforts.

States That Don’t Currently Have Mandatory Prevention Training Requirements

Certain states have no specific requirements for workers to go through mandatory preventive training. For example, workplace harassment in Florida is dealt with extensively in various state legislations. However, the state does not require mandatory training, whether for state personnel or private-sector workers (including temps).

Similarly, workplace harassment laws in Michigan deal with many aspects of workplace harassment. They offer guidelines and material that can help employers create comprehensive policies. However, the state does not specifically require mandatory training to be a part of these policies.

In Indiana, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission offers detailed information on sexual harassment and its prevention in the workplace. It also contains details for victims to seek legal recourse. However, the laws relating to workplace harassment in Indiana don’t specifically include preventive training as mandatory compliance. Neither state nor private-sector employers are required to offer formal training. This includes staffing services like engineering staffing agencies as well as agencies offering temp hires.

A full list of states with no preventive training requirement for both state and private-sector workers follows below:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arkansas
  4. Colorado
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Indiana
  8. Iowa
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Maryland
  11. Michigan
  12. Minnesota
  13. Missouri
  14. Montana
  15. New Hampshire
  16. New Mexico
  17. North Dakota
  18. Wisconsin
  19. Wyoming.

It bears remembering, that sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or not, is a serious crime and a violation of human rights in every state in the United States. The right to a safe and harassment-free workplace is a basic human right that every worker is entitled to. Temp workers may not always fall in a state’s definition of an employee, but most states still offer as much protection as possible.

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