If you’re running a business in Delaware, you might want to revisit your company’s sexual-harassment policies. It’s possible that you may soon be breaking the law.
A new bill proposed in the legislature seeks to hold companies with more than 50 employees (including interns and volunteers) responsible for sexual-harassment violations when it “knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action,” according to the Delaware State News. Failing to comply would be unlawful.
The proposed legislation would require these employers to provide two hours of anti-sexual-harassment training every two years to “supervisory employees,” starting within six weeks of assuming their positions. Sexual harassment in the bill is broadly defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
“Harassment has been hidden and commonplace for far too long, but there is a major culture shift underway,” said state Rep. Helene Keeley (D), who introduced the bill at the end of last month. “We need to continue on that momentum with this legislation. Education is key to preventing and identifying harassment and [to] helping to alert people of their options to raise concerns.”
Under the measure, owners of a company would be held responsible if they knew about the conduct and failed to take corrective action.
Some business groups argue that employers can address this problem on their own, without the government imposing additional requirements.
“By and large, the vast majority of businesses know what the right and wrong is vis-a-vis sexual harassment and, especially in this atmosphere of heightened awareness of it, are certainly aware,” said James DeChene, a lobbyist for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. He said the chamber may suggest changes to the measure, including more clarity on training requirements and what constitutes misconduct.
The bill is now in a Delaware House committee, which will conduct hearings over the next few weeks.