Jill Albrecht | May. 30, 2019

Washington State Enacts New Sexual Harassment Training Mandates

Washington enacts new law regarding sexual harassment training in certain industries for companies with at least one employee.

On May 13, 2019, Washington state enacted SB 5258, a new law regarding sexual harassment training in certain industries.  The law takes effect January 1, 2020 and applies to employers in retail, the hotel, motel, security and property services contractor industries that employ at least one person.  A property services contractor is a person or entity that employs workers that provide commercial janitorial services, with some exceptions.

The law defines an employee as an individual employed as a janitor, security guard, hotel or motel housekeeper, or room service attendant, and who spends a majority of working hours alone, or whose primary responsibility involves working without another coworker present. An individual employed as a security guard is covered under the law, regardless of whether the individual is employed by a private security company or by a single employer.

New Policy and Training Requirements

Covered employers must:

  1. Adopt a harassment policy;
  2. Provide mandatory training to managers, supervisors and employees;
  3. Provide a list of resources for the employees to utilize, including the contact information of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the state human rights commission, and local advocacy groups that focus on preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault; and
  4. Provide a panic button to each employee. A panic button is an emergency contact device that the employee carries, which can summon immediate assistance from another worker, security guard, or employer representative. This requirement does not apply to contracted security guard companies licensed under state law.

These measures are required to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment, prevent sexual discrimination and educate the workforce about protections for employees that report violations of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation.

New Reporting Requirements

The law also requires property services contractors to submit information to the state Department of Labor and Industries, including:

  1. the date the employer adopted a sexual harassment policy;
  2. the number of managers, supervisors, and employees that underwent training; and
  3. the address of the location(s) where janitorial services are provided by the property service contractor’s workers. For each location, the property service contractor must provide the total of workers or contractors and the total hours worked.

Hotels and motels with 60 or more rooms must comply with the new law by January 1, 2020. All other covered employers must comply by January 1, 2021.

The new law will be codified in chapter 49.60 of the Revised Code of Washington.

Action Items

  1. Employers should implement, review and revise, if necessary, harassment-related policies, trainings, and procedures.
  2. Develop and disseminate the required list of agencies and organizations to employees employed in Washington.
  3. Obtain panic buttons for employees.
  4. Train HR and supervisory staff on the law’s requirements.

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