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Lawmakers pass sexual harassment, assault legislation

By SUSAN HAIGHJune 2, 2019

Connecticut lawmakers approved legislation Saturday that strengthens sexual harassment training requirements for employers and extends the statute of limitations for certain sexual assault crimes, legislation that stems from the #MeToo movement.

But the work of the General Assembly was not done, despite the House of Representatives’ vote of 121-23. The bill previously cleared the Senate unanimously.

Lawmakers were expected to make additional changes in a second bill, possibly on Monday, to address some concerns raised by House Republicans about how the legislation may burden small business owners. The legislature’s adjournment deadline is Wednesday at midnight.

Saturday’s bill requires employers with three or more workers to provide two hours of training on sexual harassment laws to their employees, among other mandates.

“As we go forward, can we please remember that not all businesses have HR departments,” said Republican Rep. Holly Cheeseman of East Lyme. “We need to do the things to protect the men and women in the state, our sons and daughters. But let’s do it with a sense of perspective and try to be a bit — I don’t know — compassionate for everyone.”

The legislation comes a year after a similar bill cleared the state Senate but died due to inaction in the House of Representatives. At that time, there were concerns about how the bill changed the statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes. Under this year’s bill, the statute of limitations is 30 years after someone’s 21st birthday, or until the victim reaches age 51, for certain abuses. Currently, the statute of limitations is 30 years after someone’s 18th birthday, or age 48.

Republican Rep. Doug Dibitsky of Chaplan, an attorney, expressed concern about the rights of someone who might be accused decades after an alleged assault. He questioned how they’d be able to defend themselves.

“Where do you go to find evidence that you didn’t do it,” he asked. “How do you go about showing it wasn’t you?”

But Democratic Rep. Jillian Gilchrest of West Hartford, who would prefer a full elimination of the statute of limitations, said the legislation does not change the fact an accuser has the burden of proving their accusation.

“Right now in the state of Connecticut, if a woman does comes forward and has all the evidence she needs, she’s being told, I’m sorry, your time has passed,’” she said, adding how this legislation gives victims more time to “get that justice.”

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