Sexual Harassment Training Your Small Business Needs to Know in the #MeToo Era

Sexual Harassment Training

As a surprise to no one, infamous movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of two sex crimes in late February. As a result, the case brought justice to many female accusers. And drew more attention to the #MeToo movement. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate based on sex, only since the late 1980s has the Supreme Court interpreted the meaning to include sexual harassment in the workplace.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment can take place in several ways:

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  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man and the victim does not need to be of the opposite sex from the harasser.
  • The harasser may be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a non-employee, such as a vendor or customer.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

While the Federal law applies to companies with 15 or more employees, smaller businesses are still subject to lawsuits if any type of sexual harassment occurs in the workplace. And because sexual harassment can mean anything from unwanted physical contact, to jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation, to outright demanding sexual favors, some states started requiring businesses to provide mandatory sexual harassment training to all employees.

State-by-State Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

States That Require Sexual Harassment Training


Effective January 1, 2020: “Employers having five or more employees shall provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all nonsupervisory employees within six months of their assumption of a position. An employer may provide this training in conjunction with other training provided to the employees. The training may be completed by employees individually or as part of a group presentation, and may be completed in shorter segments, as long as the applicable hourly total requirement is met.” Training must be provided every two years.

Also, for seasonal and temporary employees, or any employee hired to work for less than six months, training must be provided within 30 calendar days after their hire date or within 100 hours worked, whichever comes first.


  • Employers must provide all existing employees with two hours of training by October 1, 2020.
  • They must provide two hours of training and education to new employees hired on or after October 1, 2019 within six months of their start date.
  • Employers with fewer than three employees must provide two hours of training and education to all current supervisory employees by October 1, 2020 and  within six months to new supervisory employees.
  • They must provide periodic supplemental training not less than every 10 years.


Employers must distribute the Department of Labor’s Sexual Harassment Notice to all new employees when they start working. Current employees should have  been notified by July 1, 2019. The notice explains sexual harassment, provides several examples, cautions against retaliation, and gives instructions on filing a complaint with the Department of Labor. In workplaces with 50 or more employees, employers are required to provide interactive training on sexual harassment prevention and additional training to supervisors about their responsibilities and any retaliation prohibitions.

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District of Columbia

Do your employees earn tips? Then you must provide harassment prevention training for all employees.  Consult the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act of 2018. The D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) must develop the training. Or an OHR-certified provider must develop it. As a result, new employees must receive training within 90 days of employment. Or they training must have happened within the past two years. Owners, operators, and managers must receive training every two years.


Employers with 15 or more employees must conduct an education and training program. That goes for all new employees. It needs to happen within one year of commencement of employment. Training must include the illegality of sexual harassment. It must also include a definition of sexual harassment. It must include he definition under state and federal laws and federal regulations. They include the Maine Human Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Massachusetts law requires a policy from employers with six or more workers. As a result, adopt a written policy against sexual harassment. Chapter 151B encourages employers to conduct education. Create training programs on sexual harassment for all employees on a regular basis.

New York

New York State requires all employers to provide workers with sexual harassment prevention training. Do you opt out of using the model training developed by the Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights. Then you must ensure the training you do use meets or exceeds the following minimum standards. The training must be interactive. It must include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment. And it should contain information addressing conduct by supervisors. Also consider any additional responsibilities for such supervisors.

States that Do Not Require Sexual Harassment Training

HawaiiAlthough, there aren’t official rules relating to training, the Hawaii Department of Labor states: “Prevention is the best tool for the elimination of sexual harassment. Employers should affirmatively raise the subject, express strong disapproval, develop appropriate sanctions, inform employees of their right to raise and how to raise the issue of sexual harassment, and take any other steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring.”
IdahoTraining recommended, not required.
IllinoisTraining required for public employees only.
KansasTraining required for employees and interns of executive government agencies.)
KentuckyTraining required for state employees every two years.
LouisianaTraining required for state employees every year.
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Dakota
OhioTraining is not required but recommended. “Prevention is the best tool for the elimination of sexual harassment.”
MississippiTraining required for state employees.
NevadaTraining required for state employees.
New JerseyTraining required for state employees.
North CarolinaTraining required for state employees.
OregonTraining is not required but recommended.
PennsylvaniaTraining required for state employees.
Rhode IslandTraining is not required but recommended.
South Carolina
South DakotaTraining is not required but recommended.
TennesseeTraining required for state employees.
TexasTraining required for state employees.
UtahTraining required for state employees.
VermontTraining is not required but recommended.
VirginiaTraining required for Virginia legislative branch employees every two years.
WashingtonTraining required for state employees.
West VirginiaTraining encouraged for state employees. There’s more information here.
WisconsinThe Department of Workforce Development has a harassment information webpage which recommends training.

Don’t wait until sexual harassment training to be required in your state. The risks for not educating your staff and supervisors prove potentially catastrophic. Check with your state’s department of labor. Ask about sexual harassment training programs. Also consider education materials. Look for other tools to communicate your business’s non-tolerance of any form of sexual harassment.


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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

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