Delaware Expands Protections Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
On August 29, 2018, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law House Bill 360, expanding sexual harassment protections for workers.
The new law broadens the categories of workers covered by the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act's sexual harassment provisions to include job applicants, joint employees, apprentices, unpaid interns, individuals who work for employment agencies, and state employees. The law also requires the Delaware Department of Labor to create an informational sheet on sexual harassment that employers will be required to distribute to employees. These portions of the law apply to any employer with four or more employees in Delaware.
Additionally, employers with 50 or more employees in the state must provide interactive sexual harassment training every two years. New employees must be provided training within a year after hire or within a year of being promoted to a supervisory position. Current employees must receive training in 2019.
Significantly, the new statute defines sexual harassment more broadly than the federal standard. Under the Delaware law, sexual harassment is unlawful if challenged conduct "creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment." This language arguably encompasses more behavior than the "severe or pervasive" requirement applicable under federal law and could provide Delaware employees even greater protection.
This law comes as many other states have passed or are considering additional legislation aimed at curtailing sexual harassment in the workplace. For example, with Delaware's action, sexual harassment training now is required in five states: Delaware, New York, California, Maine, and Connecticut, with a similar requirement pending in the Pennsylvania legislature.
Delaware employers should act now to prepare for compliance, as this new law will go into effect in just a few months.