Connecticut lawmakers seek to overhaul sex harassment laws
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — More Connecticut employers would be required to provide sexual harassment training and victims would have more time to file complaints under legislation proposed Tuesday by a group of Democratic lawmakers.
Democratic Senate President Martin Looney of New Haven said the Democratic Senate legislative package, dubbed the “Time’s Up Act,” marks “the largest overhaul of sexual harassment and sexual assault law in modern Connecticut history.”
The proposals were inspired by the spate of sexual misconduct allegations that have arisen nationally in recent months.
The package focuses on making changes to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities complaint process, eliminating so-called secret settlements in harassment cases, eliminating the statute of limitations for felony sexual assaults, increasing the financial penalties for offenders and requiring increased training and education in workplaces. For instance, the lawmakers want to require sexual harassment training at all employers with three or more employees. It’s currently required for employers with 50 or more workers.
Employers would also be required to email sexual harassment policies to employees at least once a year. Employers that fail to provide the required notice would face stiffer fines.
“Employees simply don’t know their rights. They don’t know the protections that exist under the current law if they make a complaint,” said Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven said he was disappointed the Democrats didn’t work with the GOP on the issue.
“In Connecticut, Republican and Democrat lawmakers have a history of working together to improve sexual harassment prevention policies right here in the General Assembly,” Fasano said. “It’s disappointing to see a lack of effort to work with their colleagues together on an issue as important as sexual harassment prevention.”
Among the other highlights of the legislative package:
— Victims would have up to two years to file a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities about alleged harassment, instead of six months.
— CHRO and private litigants would be allowed to request punitive damages in sexual harassment and other employment discrimination cases.
— The statute of limitations for all felony sexual assault crimes would be eliminated. Currently, it’s five years in some cases.
— Settlement agreements and contracts prohibiting a party from disclosing information about sexual harassment or sexual assault would be prohibited.
— Connecticut’s list of people mandated to report sexual assault committed against minors would be reviewed and possibly expanded.
Lawmakers are also planning to hold hearings on the General Assembly’s sexual harassment policies to determine whether any changes need to be made. The policies were last updated in July 2014.
The Associated Press recently requested records from all four legislative caucuses and the Office of Legislative Management regarding any sexual misconduct or harassment complaints against lawmakers since 2008. All reported having no records of formal complaints filed against lawmakers. They also said they had no records of financial settlements paid because of misconduct or harassment.
Caucus staff confirmed several former lawmakers in the past were verbally reprimanded for inappropriate behavior.