Navigating Multi-State Harassment Prevention Laws

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In California and across the country, the professional landscape has been ever-changing in the way employers must handle discrimination and sexual harassment.

Prior to 2018, only three states, California, Connecticut, and Maine, required mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. Fast forward to 2019 where California has enacted more stringent training requirements while Delaware, the District of Columbia, and New York have all passed laws requiring mandatory prevention training.  Further, eight more states (Florida, Illinois (Restaurants Only), New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Texas, and Massachusetts), are attempting to mandate sexual harassment prevention training for employers. Some individual cities are even getting involved. New York City has enacted Local Law 96 effective April 1, 2019 which affects employers with 15 or more employees.

New State requirements

  • California:  Employers with 5 or more employees must provide supervisory employees with two hours and non-supervisory employees with one hour of harassment prevention training.   All employees must be trained by January 1, 2020 and must follow very specific requirements for their training. Any new employees to the company must be trained within 6 months of their start date, regardless of position.
  • New York: all employers must provide training for all employees before October 9, 2019. Unlike California which specifies a 6-month maximum before training after hire, there is no such requirement, however employers are encouraged to train new hires “quickly.”
  • Washington DC: Any business who employs tipped employees must train all employees and owners of such business to receive training within 90-days of hire.  Training for the Managers must be done in-person.
  • Delaware: Employers with 50 or more employees must provide training to all employees within their first year with the company, but existing employees must be trained by January 1, 2020.

Multi-State Employers

As a multi-state employer, best practice dictates that you provide all employees with training that meets the requirements of the most stringent state in which you do business. All employees (supervisory and non-supervisory) should be trained annually and be sure to provide training for new hires within the allotted time frame for the state in which they live.

Overall, all employers should keep harassment prevention and awareness at the forefront. At a minimum, follow these tips to help protect your company:

  • Define unlawful discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment under applicable local, state, and federal laws.
  • Have employees acknowledge company’s anti-harassment policy which includes:
    • Clear explanation and examples of prohibited conduct
    • Clearly defined and accessible complaint procedure with more than one person able to address complaints
    • An assurance of confidentiality to the best extent possible within the law
    • Assurance of immediate and appropriate corrective action when harassment or discrimination occurs
    • Statement of protection against retaliation for an employee who brings a compliant of harassment or discrimination
  • Foster a culture in which employees demonstrate professional courtesy toward each other where they are encouraged to speak up if they see any form of discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

PBO’s HR consulting team can help with these and other items necessary for compliance. For more information or to schedule this training for your company, contact Laura Nieman, PHR at or 858.935.4844.