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Preventing Sexual Harassment in Washington State

Preventing Sexual Harassment in Washington State

Washington State businesses have the responsibility to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Businesses must follow certain rules and regulations, as well as administer proper training to employees and themselves. 

Here is what you need to know about preventing sexual harassment in Washington State.

Washington State Sexual Harassment Prevention

Washington State Sexual Harassment Law (SB 5258) applies to most employers in the state.

Specifically, any employer with employees working alongside two or fewer coworkers at a location other than their home must adhere to Washington State Sexual Harassment requirements. The law also specifically calls out those working in the following industries: 

  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Behavioral Health Care
  • Custodial Services
  • Labor Contractors (who employ a custodian, security guard, or a hotel / motel housekeeper)

What is Sexual Harassment in Washington State?

Sexual harassment consists of illegal sex discrimination involving acts such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct that is based on sex. It is a violation of federal and state law.

Specifically, Washington State law defines two separate types of sexual harassment. 

The first is considered "Hostile Work Environment Harassment". Washington Labor Law defines a "Hostile Work Environment" as "Harassment that is frequent or severe enough to interfere with your ability to perform your job. The behavior must be directed at you because of your gender and can include unwelcome, sexually suggestive, or gender-based comments or jokes; unwelcome and repeated requests for dates; offensive gestures; inappropriate touching; or display of pornographic materials."

The second form of harassment is considered "Quid Pro Quo". Washington Labor Law defines "Quid Pro Quo" as "Harassment that occurs when a supervisor or manager asks for sexual favors from you in return for employment benefits such as a promotion, salary increase, career development opportunities, special projects, or other benefits related to your job."

Washington State Sexual Harassment Employer Requirements

Covered employers have the responsibility to:

  • Adopt a sexual harassment policy (no specific state requirements on what to include)
  • Provide mandatory training to managers, supervisors, and employees to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination in the workplace, while also educating the same people on their rights regarding protection against retaliation for reporting violations
  • Provide procedures for employees who have experienced sexual harassment to report complaints, including:
  • Thoroughly and promptly investigate complaints of sexual harassment
  • Provide a panic button to each employee working alongside two or fewer coworkers at a location other than their home

Washington State Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

Washington State does not have specific definitions of what should be included in training for sexual harassment for private employers, however, there are certain requirements for government employers.

As such, many employees and employers opt to use online training resources. Employers should ensure that such courses issue some form of certification for completion. 

A Washington State HR Company may be able to help you find the proper training for your workforce. 

One thing to keep in mind is while private sector employees only need to complete training once, government and state employees at least every five years. Training should be completed within the first six months of employment, or earlier if required by the employer's sexual harassment policy.

Reporting Sexual Harassment in Washington State

If you or an employee experiences any form of sexual harassment at work, it is important to report it to the proper authorities. 

If you observe another employee being harassed or experience harassment yourself, you should do one or more of the following: 

  • Communicate to the harasser or their supervisor that the behavior is offensive and considered harassment
  • Immediately report the incident(s) to management or the human resources department
  • Report the harassment to the following government agencies:

Get Help with Washington State Compliance and Human Resources

If your business is struggling to adopt a sexual harassment policy, or you're unsure of where to begin with your sexual harassment prevention training, a Washington State HR company may be able to assist you. 

Contact us today to see how we are already helping countless Washington State businesses manage compliance with sexual harassment prevention and other state labor laws. 

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