Most Connecticut businesses will incur increased costs under a sexual harassment prevention bill that expands training to all companies with three or more employees.
However, some of the costs driven by the requirements in a bill being considered by the legislature's Judiciary Committee could be offset through the use of training videos.
Connecticut law currently requires businesses with 50 or more workers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to supervisory employees.
The mandatory two-hour training must be in a classroom setting with discussion of federal and state laws, a question-and-answer period, and other mandates that force most companies to hire an attorney or consultant.
Under SB 3, companies with three or more workers would have to provide training to all employees at least once every 10 years.
$130 Million in Compliance Costs
CBIA's Eric Gjede said as per employee training costs range from $100-$150, total private sector compliance costs could exceed $130 million under the bill's provisions.
He asked lawmakers to consider allowing the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to develop online materials that satisfy training requirements and provide those to businesses at no cost.
Gjede also suggested SB 3 be amended so that employees with no supervisory or managerial duties are not required to attend a full, two-hour training session.
Instead, he proposed non-managerial workers be trained on the definition of sexual harassment, the types of conduct that constitute harassment, reporting procedures, and other information deemed necessary for non-supervisory personnel.
"Businesses are under incredible pressure to provide safe workplaces for employees," Gjede told committee members March 28.
"Every year, new limitations are placed on the tools we use to screen employees. Despite that, we are willing to do more when it comes to workplace sexual harassment prevention."
Gjede noted that only three states require private sector employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training.
Connecticut and California require businesses with 50 or more workers to provide training to supervisory employees.
Maine requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide the training to all employees
But Maine employers only need to show employees a video and have them sign a form stating they viewed it.
"Connecticut's law is considerably more expansive in terms of curriculum and duration," Gjede said.
He also noted SB 3 prohibits employers from taking corrective action in response to a sexual harassment claim by modifying the claimant's conditions of employment without a written agreement.
"While we understand the impetus for this section, it creates a significant issue for an employer attempting to balance the safety of the claimant with the due process rights of the accused," Gjede said.
"There are a number of scenarios where this could result in logistical issues for employers attempting to properly enforce harassment policies."
Gjede said CBIA also opposes the bill's increased damages provisions but supports a section that allows employers to suspend without pay a salaried employee who violates a written workplace rule on harassment or violence. Currently, only non-salaried employees can be suspended.
"We share your intent of ensuring our workplaces are as safe as possible for employees," Gjede told legislators.
"We ask you to keep in mind the many other cost-driving mandates being considered by lawmakers this session and offer to work with you to find solutions that will work for both employees and employers."