Workplace Sexual Harassment

HR & Safety

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under Connecticut law, sexual harassment means any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when: 

  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual.
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. 

Connecticut law also requires employers with three or more employees to participate in sexual harassment training. 

The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities provides guidance and training on sexual harassment prevention for Connecticut employers. 

Employers can satisfy Connecticut’s training requirement by having their employees watch the CHRO’s free two hour video.

If an employer takes corrective action in response to an employee’s sexual harassment claim, the action should not involve relocation, assigning the accuser to a different work schedule, or other changes to the terms and conditions of their employment, unless the employee agrees to the change in writing. 

If the employer takes this type of corrective action without the agreement of the accusing employee, it may be a discriminatory practice.  

It is important to note that sexual harassment investigations do not always occur from an employee complaint. 

If an employer witnesses or hears about inappropriate conduct through a third party, the employer should take immediate action. 

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace.

Tips for Preventing Sexual Harassment 

  • Post the company’s anti-harassment policy in a visible location.
  • Include the policy in new hire materials and have new hires acknowledge receipt.
  • Distribute the policy to all employees at least once a year and keep a record that you have done so.
  • Conduct regular training for employees concerning harassment, the company’s anti-harassment policy, and complaint procedures. Keep records of such training.
  • Stop inappropriate banter, touching, and jokes before they become a problem.
  • Periodically walk through work sites and have employees remove any inappropriate or potentially offensive calendars, posters, cartoons, mugs, screensavers, or other objects.
  • Be sensitive to personnel matters that may indicate a problem, such as frequent turnover in a particular department or for a manager.
  • Address problems promptly and appropriately even if there is no formal complaint.

Additional guidance for employers can be found at the National Resource Center for Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence.  

Common Mistakes 

By taking steps to prevent sexual harassment and by avoiding these common mistakes, employers can save themselves the stress and cost associated with ineffectively responding to complaints.  Common mistakes include:

  • Failing to take every complaint seriously. 
  • Not taking action unless a formal complaint is received. 
  • Allowing biases about certain employees or identities to affect decisions. 
  • Concluding quickly and without thorough investigation. 
  • Focusing on the alleged harasser’s intent instead of their behavior.
  • Asking judgmental questions like, “Why did you wait so long to report?”
  • Telling an employee that the complaint will remain absolutely confidential. 
  • Not protecting complainants against retaliation. 
  • Deviating from company procedure regarding complaints. 
  • Not making the company’s sexual harassment policy known. 
  • Not bringing closure to the complaint and the complainant.

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