HARTFORD, CT — A bill designed to crack down on sexual harassment in the workplace and increase the time victims have to bring allegations of sexual assault passed the House Saturday, 121 to 23.
The legislation, which has been referred to as the “Time’s Up” bill, passed last week unanimously in the Senate and now goes to the governor’s desk.
“The bill is designed to combat the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace,” said Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport. “There has been an uptick in the number of incidents of sexual assault and harassment and this bill begins to address the issues brought up by the ‘Me Too’ movement.”
Stafstrom, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill attempts to “tighten up and strengthen our laws.” He added that “many of them (current sexual harassment and assault laws) haven’t been looked at for quite some time.”
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, said the bill “is not perfect but one that can be supported.”
A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but was never raised for a vote in the House.
Rebimbas said the training requirement will be “big change for small businesses” in particular, but said those businesses should be able to utilize the free training video that CHRO is charged with producing for employers to show employees.
Referring to the overall intent of the bill, Rebimbas said: “Nobody wants to be sexually harassed in the workplace,” and added that preventing that from happening is what lawmakers hope to accomplish with the legislation.
An amendment introduced by Republican legislators to, among other things, increase the minimum number of employees of a company to 25 to fall under the bill’s jurisdiction, failed. The bill as written would apply to any business with three or more employees.
Stafstrom, during debate on the amendment, said language on the bill was still being discussed and could be altered before the final version winds up on Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk.
That will be done through another piece of legislation before session adjourns at midnight June 5. It’s unclear exactly what changes will be made, but Sen. Mae Flexer, the Killingly Democrat who negotiated the deal, said they would be minor.
“Connecticut will no longer lag behind other states around the country in protecting victims of sexual assault. Our state will now be the national leader in preventing and addressing workplace harassment,” Flexer said. “This bill has been a long time coming and finally we can say to victims in our state that we see you, we believe you, and you matter.”
The first part of the bill deals with training requirements for sexual harassment in the workplaces. The bill attempts to ensure that every Connecticut employee understands his or her rights if he or she is enduring sexual harassment in the workplace. It also assures that bystanders understand what constitutes sexual harassment so they can support their colleagues.
The second part of the bill updates Connecticut’s laws regarding workplace discrimination by requiring the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) to make training materials available online. The bill requires employers to train all employees, not just supervisors.
Stafstrom said the anticipation is that CHRO can handle the tasks the bill outlines without adding any additional staff or expense.
The third part extends the statute of limitations for forced rape or rape by drugs from five years to 20 years. The statute of limitations would also be extended for things like unwanted touching from one year to 10 years.
It would also eliminate the statute of limitations for all children and if a victim was 18, 19, or 20, the statute of limitations would be 30 years following the victim’s 21st birthday, effectively the victim’s 51st birthday.
Connecticut’s current statute of limitations of five years is one of the shortest in the country.
The fourth part of the bill changes the statute of limitations for civil cases of sexual assault and changes the age of a minor from 18 to 21. Additionally this portion creates a task force to study statutory limitations in civil cases.
The bill would not cover part-time employees who work less than 20 hours per week or independent contractors.