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Maine Human Rights Commission Suggests Interactive Training Under Sexual Harassment Prevention Law

Maine Human Rights Commission Suggests Interactive Training Under Sexual Harassment Prevention Law
  • March 30, 2005

Under Maine's 14-year old law designed to ensure that workplaces are free of sexual harassment, employers must provide postings, notifications, and education and training regarding the illegality of sexual harassment. The law, Title 26, section 807 of the Maine Revised Statutes, was initiated by the Maine Women's Lobby and was introduced to the Maine legislature with bipartisan sponsorship, where it won unanimous approval from the Maine House and Senate. The law was signed into law by then Governor John McKernan in June 1991 and became effective in October of that year.

With other states, such as California and Connecticut, more recently addressing the prevention of workplace harassment by legislative means, employers should be reminded of the requirements of the older Maine law.

Which Employers Are Covered?

Maine's law applies to all employers, both public and private, located in or doing business in Maine.

What Are the Posting Requirements?

All employers must post in a "prominent and accessible" location in the workplace information regarding the illegality of sexual harassment. The poster must include, at a minimum, information regarding (1) the illegality of sexual harassment on the job; (2) a description, including examples, of sexual harassment; (3) the complaint process available to a victim through the Maine Human Rights Commission[1]; and (4) information regarding how to contact the Maine Human Rights Commission. The poster cannot exceed basic sixth grade literacy standards in order to be accessible to all workers. Employers may design their own posters, in accordance with the standards listed above, or may obtain a poster through the Maine Human Rights Commission.

What Are the Written Notification Requirements?

Annually, employers must provide all employees individual written notification of the illegality of sexual harassment. This annual written notification must include, at a minimum, the following information: (1) the illegality of sexual harassment; (2) the definition of sexual harassment under state law; (3) a description, including examples, of sexual harassment: (4) the internal complaint process available to the employee; (5) the legal recourse and complaint process available through the Maine Human Rights Commission; (6) information regarding how to contact the Maine Human Rights Commission; and (7) the legal protection for complainants against retaliation as provided under Maine's Whistleblower's Protection Act. The notification must be provided to employees in a manner to ensure notification of all employees without exception, such as including the notice with an employee's pay.

What Are the Education and Training Requirements?

The law requires sexual harassment education and training for all workplaces with 15 or more employees. All new employees and all new supervisory and managerial employees must receive this training within one year of the commencement of their employment. In addition to the information included in the posting and notification requirements, education and training programs for all new employees must include, at a minimum, the definition of sexual harassment under state and federal laws and federal regulations, including the Maine Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Education and training for all new supervisory and managerial employees must additionally include information regarding managers' and supervisors' specific responsibilities in taking "immediate and appropriate" corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

In seeking clarification of the training requirements, we have contacted the Maine Human Rights Commission. For example, the California sexual harassment law mandates that supervisors have two hours of interactive sexual harassment training. The Human Rights Commission confirmed that the Maine law does not require the education and training to be interactive or of any particular duration. The Commission noted, however, that interactive training is considered the most effective method of providing employees education and training. Although it is acceptable for employees merely to watch a videotape regarding sexual harassment, the Commission suggested that employers utilize interactive training, such as a live speaker or web-based training, that allows trainees to submit questions and to receive a response.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist employers in Maine and in all other states and U. S. territories with their compliance and best practices programs for preventing harassment and other forms of unlawful workplace discrimination. We have developed management training programs for avoiding sexual harassment and EEO problems, maintaining union-free status, and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, among others, and we regularly conduct educational conferences nationwide for in-house attorneys and human resource professionals on a wide range of issues. Additionally, Jackson Lewis has partnered with Workplace Answers to provide online training solutions for employers on a variety of topics. For more information, please contact the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work, or Management Training coordinator and partner Michael J. Lotito.

[1] At this time, no state agency is specifically responsible for enforcing the requirements of Title 26, section 807 of the Maine Revised Statutes.  The Maine Human Rights Commission, however, is entrusted with enforcing the Maine Human Rights Act, Title 5, § 4551 et seq. of the Maine Revised States, which prohibits unlawful discrimination.   Employees who believe they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act may file a charge of discrimination with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

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