COVID-19 has imposed fresh and difficult challenges on employers, including the need to balance new legislative compliance with all that existed before the Year of the Pandemic. Before the end of the 2020 calendar year may be welcomed, however, employers in certain states should remain cognizant of approaching sexual harassment training deadlines. Although sexual harassment training is now mandated by statute in eight states (including the District of Columbia for specific industries), only one of these states – Connecticut – has temporarily extended the time to comply with its training mandates (currently February 9, 2021). The December 31, 2020 deadline for Illinois and New York (annual training) and the January 1, 2021 deadline for California remain in place.
Although each state has its own requirements regarding the duration, frequency, content, format and method (i.e. in-person) of anti-harassment training, as well as recordkeeping and other obligations, employers in all states are cautioned that effective sexual harassment training involves more than a checklist of definitions conveyed via PowerPoint slides. Training should promote interactivity and participation (including an opportunity for Q&A) while also providing examples, educating employees on the employer’s specific reporting process, and raising awareness regarding the different forms of harassment and the consequences of misconduct. Workplace culture topics, including diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias, should also be explored via an easily accessible online/mobile platform, given many employees’ current work from home arrangements.