New Sexual Harassment Laws for State Workers
The Louisiana Legislature has passed a law entitled Prevention of Sexual Harassment, which becomes effective on January 1, 2019. Although the effective date is in January, agency heads are required to take all actions necessary to bring the agency in compliance with the provisions of R.S. 42:342 and 343 as enacted by Section 1 of the Act as soon as possible.
Both Federal Law – Title VII – and the Louisiana Anti-Discrimination statute prohibit discrimination based on gender. Sexual harassment is a term we use to refer to certain types of gender discrimination in the workplace. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or hostile environment in the workplace.
Who is impacted? All public officers and employees, departments, offices, divisions, agencies, commissions, boards, committees, and other organizational units of the State of Louisiana or political subdivision.
In order to comply with the Act, three main requirements must be met:
- Policy Development and Implementation specific language and processes must be incorporated into sexual harassment policies and posted prominently on the agency website or in a conspicuous location in the office.
- Training Implementation and Record keeping provide training annually on sexual harassment for all employees that meet the minimum-hours requirement with additional training for those accepting or investigating complaints of sexual harassment in the agency and maintain training records.
- Reporting– submit a report annually each February that tracks various metrics related to sexual harassment beginning in 2020 for data captured in 2019.
Helpful prevention tip: The new law highly encourages any employee who feels sexual harassed, to inform the harasser that their actions are inappropriate and they need to stop. This may seem obvious to some, but many employees feel uncomfortable to do so. However, saying something like “please stop touching my shoulder. It makes me feel uncomfortable,” could stop the unwanted behavior and prevent any further escalation of sexual harassment. Letting behaviors like this go unchecked can lead to a hostile work environment.
What is incorporated in a strong sexual harassment policy? The EEOC and many state government bodies recommend certain minimum requirements for an employers sexual harassment policy. If these requirements are met and the information well disseminated to employees and managers, it will help lessen sexual harassment and reduce liability to the employer in sexual harassment claims. The employers policy should include the following:
- A clear definition of sexual harassment with examples of language and behavior that constitute harassment and are thereby prohibited
- Description of who is covered under the policy
- Clear language about the illegality of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace
- Implementation of mandatory anti-sexual harassment training
- A clear reporting and grievance procedure for sexual harassment claims
- Prohibition against retaliation for employees who report sexual harassment or discrimination
- Responsibilities of management to act immediately to stop reported harassment and investigate all claims
- Corrective actions against harassers or management who are aware of harassment and fail to act
- Contact information for helpful resources such as the EEOC, state governing bodies and local advocacy groups that focus on the prevention of sexual harassment
Interested in Sexual Harassment Training Seminars? Click Here to find and book one of EHT’s certified Providers.
What Are Some Examples Of Sexual Harassment In The Louisiana Workplace?
The sexual harassment laws have been more and more refined & developed, courts have generally used the terms “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” to delineate the most common forms of harassment in the workplace. A hostile environment, relates directly to a workplace situation where the sexual harassment has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s job performance and creating an intimidating environment. This toxic effect, makes it very difficult to maintain a decent & effective workplace decorum & efforts. This can take the form of lewd jokes, abusive comments, displaying sexual materials in the workplace, all creating a workplace environment filled with hostility & resentment.
The term quid pro quo often describe workplace situations where the employee is subjected to sexual conduct that is linked to specific job related benefits like a promotion, salary, time off, or a dreaded employee evaluation. In these cases, the harasser is relying on his actual power or authority as a manager to alter conditions of an employee’s workplace by manipulating the harassee to provide sort of sexual overtures in exchange for these employment advances.
As an employee, you don’t have to grant the sexual favor, and you don’t have to be terminated or denied the promotion if you reject the request. The attempt to coerce is sufficient for there to be sexual harassment. In those situations, the outcome of the case often depends on whether the employee complained and how the employer responded.
The new Louisiana sexual harassment laws have been passed partially due to public pressure, such as the #MeToo movement, but also due to the government’s track record in regards to workplace sexual harassment. Since 2009 and the end of 2017, Louisiana paid out over 1.3 million dollars in 27 sexual harassment settlements. The allegations in these settlements were made against college professors, judges, health care workers and even one former state lawmaker.