What Workplace Sexual Harassment Law Changes Should We Expect in 2020?

HR professionals found themselves faced with a number of workplace sexual harassment law changes in 2019—and 2020 is likely to hold more of the same. Sexual harassment is top of mind these days, fueled by continual allegations against increasingly high-profile offenders, ranging all the way up to the White House.

Enacting new laws is one way to demonstrate awareness and concern about sexual harassment. Unfortunately, laws have been around for some time now with seemingly little impact preventing sexual harassment in workplaces around the country. We believe there are several reasons for this and continue to work with organizations to help them take a different, more proactive, more positive, and more collaborative approach to changing workplace culture. Still, despite these efforts, we must be aware of, and responsive to new laws. Here’s a look at what we can expect in 2020.

Sexual Harassment Laws in 2020

California tends to lead the pack when it comes to the implementation of laws of various kinds; sexual harassment is no exception. In 2020, California is slated to institute a number of new sexual harassment laws, according to The National Law Review.

  • AB9: Extension of FEHA Statute of Limitations. Also known as the SHARE Act—Stop Harassment and Reporting Extension—AB9 will extend the deadline for filing workplace harassment-related retaliation from one to three years. This is six times more than the federal standard and three times more than the state’s current standard.
  • AB547: Sexual Violation and Harassment Prevention Training in the Janitorial Industry which is designed to identify qualified organizations to provide required training to employers that employ members of the janitorial industry.
  • AB749: Settlement Agreements will void the “no rehire” provisions in any settlement agreements signed on or after January 1, 2020, except where employers determine that the individual engaged in sexual harassment or assault. 
  • SB530: Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Training. This bill extends deadlines for mandatory sexual harassment training for employers with seasonal and temporary employees, as well as employees hired for less than six months to January 1, 2021. 

Illinois is also anticipating a number of changes, in 2020, to laws relating to sexual harassment in the workplace. 

  • The Workplace Transparency Act (WTA) will apply to contracts initiated, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2020. It limits employers’ ability to use confidentiality provisions in arbitrating sexual harassment violations. 
  • The Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act will require employers to include specific language in their sexual harassment policies to instruct employees to “leave the work area immediately if they perceive danger.” This law will also require employers to equip employees with devices that they can use to seek help if they are a victim of harassment. Further, employers will be required to separate employees from offending guests. 
  • The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) will extend protections to employees working beyond the actual physical location of an employer, including online harassment. It will protect against discrimination or harassment based on an individual’s “perceived” status and provide protection to contractors and consultants. 
  • Beginning in 2020, Illinois employers will be required to annually report the number of adverse judgments or administrative rulings that have been entered against them related to sexual harassment.

These moves likely reflect just the tip of the iceberg given the election cycle and announcements by many candidates of their intent to prioritize sexual harassment policies

It’s important for HR professionals to ensure that they are staying informed of changing requirements of sexual harassment training and policies that impact the states in which they have employees and, increasingly, contractors. 

Workplace Harassment Course

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