On the same day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation became official following reports of sexual harassment by at least 11 women, Connecticut officials were highlighting Connecticut’s sexual harassment laws.
“Here in Connecticut we have some of the strongest sexual harassment laws in the country,” Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Windham, says.
But that doesn’t mean sexual harassment doesn’t exist.
“This is a problem that permeates across society. Across all jobs, across all titles, across all professions,” Tanya Hughes, executive director of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, says.
Hughes says in 2019, the same year the legislature required sexual harassment training for employers with more than 3 employees they saw the highest number of sexual harassment complaints — 260.
“That’s the highest number in our near 80 years of existence as an agency,” Hughes says.
She added: “we are on trend to exceed that number this year.”
Cheryl Sharp, deputy director of the CHRO, says in some ways new yorks sexual harassment law, which was signed by cuomo is more expansive than connecticut’s but the victim has to feel comfortable enough to come forward.
“Often when you’re first starting out as a working person you don’t really know. You know in your gut that somethings not right about the way your boss is treating you, but you don’t know what your rights are,” Flexer says.
“Fear is one of the factors that influences whether or not an individual will come forward to file a complaint,” Sharp says.
“If you believe you are the victim of illegal discrimination, including sexual harassment you can file a complaint with one of our four offices, in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport and Norwich.”
To find out more about filing a complaint you can visit www.ct.gov/chro. Sharp says they have in-take specialists who will help people with the filing of a complaint. They also have the two hour free training video on their website.
“A lot of people in Connecticut have gotten the training that’s been mandated over the last almost two years, but a lot of people still haven’t gotten that training,” Flexer says.
Sharp says when it becomes an issue nationally like with the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, it also impacts the number of complaints that are filed.
“The numbers make it clear the continuing importance of prevention training to prevent sexual harassment, to eliminate sexual harassment and to hold accountable those who abuse authority and create hostile and intimidating work environments,” Hughes says.
Often young women are impacted, but it applies to all sexes and genders.