NEW LAW: Maine’s New Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

Under the Maine Human Rights Act, Maine employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment training as follows:

  • All new employees – within one year of the hire date and
  • All new or newly promoted supervisory employees — within 1 year of being hired or promoted into a supervisory or managerial position (this is additional training).

This training requirement has been in place for a number of years; however, in response to the #metoo movement, the Maine Human Rights Act was recently amended to add a new requirement for the Maine sexual harassment training.  Maine employers must now use a checklist prepared by the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) to develop their sexual harassment training programs.

This checklist reminds employers that the new employee sexual harassment education and training program must be given within one year of commencement of employment and must include the following elements:

  • a written notice of the illegality of sexual harassment;
  • the definition of sexual harassment under state law;
  • a description of sexual harassment, utilizing examples;
  • the internal complaint process available to the employee;
  • the legal recourse and complaint process available through the Maine Human Rights Commission; directions on how to contact the Commission; and
  • the protection against retaliation

Employers are also reminded that newly hired/promoted supervisory and managerial employees must receive additional training within one year of being hired or promoted into a supervisory or managerial position.  This training must include the following elements:

  • the specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees and
  • the methods that these employees must take to ensure immediate and appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

It is important to note that the checklist does not impose any new substantive training requirements.  Nevertheless, employers should review the checklist to ensure that the company is meeting the training obligations.  Also, while not required, it is recommended that employers give all employees sexual harassment training on an annual basis.

The most important change to the law is the new record keeping requirement.  The Maine Human Rights Act now requires employer to keep records of the sexual harassment training taken by employees.  This record must be kept for at least 3 years and should contain the following information (at a minimum):

  • the names of each employee who participated in sexual harassment training,
  • the dates and times the training was provided, and
  • the written materials employees received as part of the training.

Finally, while not a change to the me. Human Rights Act, it is important for all Maine employers (regardless of size) to remember that they are required to do the following:

  • Display the required Maine Sexual Harassment Poster in a prominent location in the workplace
  • Provide all employees with an Annual Notice regarding sexual harassment that contains (at a minimum) the following information
    • the illegality of sexual harassment;
    • the definition of sexual harassment under state law;
    • a description of sexual harassment, utilizing examples;
    • the internal complaint process available to the employee;
    • the legal recourse and complaint process available through the commission;
    • directions on how to contact the commission; and
    • the protection against retaliation.

This notice must be created by the employer (in other words, the Maine Department of Labor has not and will not develop a model notice) and it must be delivered “in a manner to ensure notice to all employees without exception, such as including the notice with an employee’s pay.”