Did you know that 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced sexual harassment?
Did you also know that if you own a company and don’t provide prevention training, you could face serious legal consequences?
Exact laws vary by state, but you have good reason to provide sexual harassment prevention training even if it’s not required in your area. Non-compliance fines (which we’ll discuss in this article) are only the beginning.
Workplace harassment lawsuits can easily escalate into millions of dollars. That’s more than enough to cripple your business, not to mention the damage to your reputation. This is why it’s vital for business owners to be proactive and work to eliminate any chances of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Are you aware of the laws around required sexual harassment prevention training for employees? Do you understand how serious the repercussions can be if you’re slapped with a legal case?
In this post, we’ll discuss sexual harassment fines and lawsuits. We’ll also offer advice on obtaining prevention training for your employees so you can stop harassment before it happens.
What Are the Laws in My State?
Workplace harassment laws are always changing, so be sure to check the latest requirements in your state.
For example, prior to 2018, California only required companies with more than 50 employees to offer harassment training. Starting in 2020, employers with as few as 5 employees now face the same requirement.
As of 2020, these states require sexual harassment training for all private and public employees:
- New York
- Washington DC (tipped employees only)
If your state isn’t listed here, does that mean you’re off the hook? Not necessarily.
Some states require training for public employees, while other states “recommend” that companies offer training to their staff. This post has more details about laws in different states.
What Are Typical Sexual Harassment Fines?
Now it’s time to talk dollars and cents. Sexual harassment fines can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your company.
We can’t provide an exhaustive list (again, laws are always changing), but here are a few examples to give you a better understanding.
Starting July 1, 2020, employers with at least one employee must comply with mandatory sexual harassment training.
A company with less than 4 workers faces a $500 fine for the first offense and up to $3,000 for the third offense. Companies with more than 4 employees face fines of $1,000 and $5,000 for the same offenses.
In 2019, New York state passed a law requiring training for all employees, including part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers.
Employers who fail to comply can face sexual harassment fines that include:
- $100 or 15 days imprisonment (or both) for the first offense
- Up to $500 and/or 30 days imprisonment for a second offense
- At least $300 and/or 60 days imprisonment for a third offense
These laws previously applied to New York City only, but now extends to the whole of the state.
Under a new law, employers with three or more employees must provide sexual harassment training before October 1, 2020. Businesses with fewer than three employees must still provide training for supervisors.
Failure to do so can result in sexual harassment fines up to $1,000.
What Can Happen If I Fail to Comply?
If the thought of these fines makes you nervous, imagine what could happen if you fail to offer training and get hit with a lawsuit. When an employee files a workplace harassment suit against their company, it is the company (not just the offender) who faces legal liability.
Because the harassment occurred on business property, the business can be held accountable for it. If the employer knew of the situation and failed to take action, the consequences can be even more severe.
An employee who files a sexual harassment suit can seek compensation for:
- Back pay
- Emotional distress
- Pain & suffering
- Attorney’s fees
- Future losses
- Punitive damages
- Injunction relief
What does this legalese mean in the real world? Again, let’s talk dollars and cents with some real-life examples.
$1.5 Million Settlement With a New York Construction Firm
In July 2020, 18 former employees of a Long Island construction company were awarded $1.5 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
The workers were subject not only to physical and verbal assault from coworkers, but also quid-pro-quo harassment from managers demanding sex for pay.
$34 Million Settlement With Mitsubishi Motors
In 1998, female workers at Mitsubishi’s Illinois plant were awarded $34 million for suffering a “hostile” work environment for at least 8 years.
The women were subject to verbal abuse, obscene jokes, and routine fondling. Others were denied promotions for refusing to perform sexual favors.
$168 Million Settlement With Catholic Healthcare West
If that headline looks like a typo, we can assure you—it’s not. This California case resulted in the largest judgment in US history for a single victim of workplace harassment.
A physician’s assistant was subject to two years of physical and verbal harassment at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento. She filed multiple complaints during the two-year period, which her employers chose to ignore.
While some of these examples may seem extreme, don’t think it couldn’t happen to you or your business. The best way to avoid sexual harassment fines (and potential lawsuits) is to provide prevention training for all your employees.
Avoid Sexual Harassment Fines With Prevention Training
As you can see, there’s more to sexual harassment prevention than hanging a poster on the wall—although we encourage you to do that too.
Depending on where you live, you may face sexual harassment fines for failing to provide prevention training to your staff. Even worse, you could face an expensive lawsuit that will tarnish your reputation and bankrupt your business.
Don’t become the next statistic! Online sexual harassment prevention training is affordable, convenient, and ensures you (and your employees) are protected.
Click here to find out more about our online training program or sign up today.