A growing number of states are requiring employers to maintain a written policy on preventing harassment in the workplace. Below, we identify the states that currently require such policies and provide a brief overview of each requirement.
All employers must develop and disseminate a written harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policy. The policy must include certain elements, which are listed here. Employers must disseminate the policy using one or more of the following methods:
- Printing and providing a copy to all employees with an acknowledgment form for the employee to sign and return;
- Sending the policy via e-mail with an acknowledgment return form;
- Posting the policy on a company intranet with a tracking system ensuring all employees have read and acknowledged receipt of the policy;
- Discussing policies upon hire and/or during a new hire orientation session; and/or
- Any other way that ensures employees receive and understand the policy.
Within three months of hire, employers with three or more employees must provide their employees with a copy of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities notice concerning sexual harassment via email, if the employer has provided an email account, or the employee has provided an email address. The email must have a subject line that includes the words "Sexual Harassment Policy" or words of similar import. If an employer hasn't provided an email account, the employer must post the required information on the employer's website, if the employer maintains a website. An employer may comply with the written notice requirements by providing an employee with a link to the commission's webpage concerning sexual harassment via email, text message, or in writing.
District of Columbia
Employers of tipped employees must create and implement a written harassment prevention policy. The policy must outline how employees may report an incident of harassment to the employer and to the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR). Employers must also distribute the policy as follows:
- Provide a copy of the policy to employees;
- Post a copy of the policy in a conspicuous location accessible to all employees; and
- File a copy of the policy with the OHR.
Bars, restaurants, hotels, and casinos must maintain written harassment prevention policies. The written policy must meet the minimum standards established by the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
All employers must provide a written sexual harassment notice/policy to employees on an annual basis. The notice/policy must include at least the following information:
- The illegality of sexual harassment;
- The definition of sexual harassment under state law;
- A description of sexual harassment, utilizing examples;
- The internal complaint process available to the employee;
- The legal recourse and complaint process available through the Maine Human Rights Commission;
- Directions on how to contact the Commission; and
- The protection against retaliation.
Employers with six or more employees must provide all employees with a written copy of the employer's policy against sexual harassment on an annual basis. New employees must be provided with a copy when they start employment. The policy must include at least the following elements:
- A statement that sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful;
- A statement that it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a sexual harassment complaint or for cooperating in an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint;
- A description and examples of sexual harassment;
- A statement of the range of consequences for employees who are found to have committed sexual harassment;
- A description of the process for filing internal complaints about sexual harassment and the work addresses and telephone numbers of the person or persons to whom complaints should be made; and
- The identity of the appropriate state and federal employment discrimination enforcement agencies, and directions as to how to contact such agencies.
All employers must adopt the state's model sexual harassment prevention policy or establish a sexual harassment prevention policy that equals or exceeds the minimum standards provided in the state's model. The employer must provide the sexual harassment prevention policy to all employees in writing or electronically. If a copy is made available on a work computer, workers must be able to print a copy for their own records.
All employers must adopt and disseminate a written policy containing procedures and practices for the reduction and prevention of discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault. The policy must contain certain elements, which are listed here. Employers must make the policy available to employees within the workplace; provide it at the time of hire; and require any individual who is designated to receive complaints to provide a copy of the policy to an employee who discloses information regarding prohibited discrimination or harassment.
Employers with 50 or more employees must adopt a sexual harassment policy that includes certain provisions, which are listed here. A written copy must be provided to all current employees and to all new hires at the start of employment. Employers must also provide a copy upon request.
All employers must adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, provide a written copy of the policy to employees upon hire, and post the policy in a prominent place in the workplace. The policy must include certain elements, which are listed here.
Hotel, motel, retail, and security guard entities, as well as property service contractors, must adopt a sexual harassment policy and provide a list of resources for employees, including contact information for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, and local advocacy groups focused on preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault. The state has a separate requirement for home care agencies.
Employers covered by the laws discussed above should read the state requirements in full and ensure compliance. Even if your state hasn't enacted legislation requiring a written policy, there may be caselaw that favors a written policy, your state may recommend that employers adopt one, and it is generally considered a best practice.