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State Senator

Mae Flexer

Representing Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson & Windham

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Senator Flexer Stands With Victims of Sexual Harassment to Highlight New “Time’s Up” Laws to Protect Victims

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Senator Mae Flexer stood alongside attorney Josh Goodbaum, and Gianna Aconfora and Maizzy Douchette, two victims of workplace sexual harassment, to highlight the Time’s Up Act, Public Act 19-16: An Act Combatting Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment. Senator Flexer was instrumental in the passage of this legislation, which went into effect on October 1, 2019.

Gianna Aconfora and Maizzy Douchette were employed as servers at Maggie McFly’s restaurant in Manchester when they allege that they were sexually harassed and assaulted by the restaurant manager. The women claim they were both terminated from their positions after complaining to management about the harassment and have filed a discrimination suit against the company.

“Sexual assault and harassment can never be tolerated,” said Senator Flexer. “Women in the workplace should not have to fear retaliation for being brave enough to come forward and share their stories. Justice for women like Gianna and Maizzy can only occur when our laws are updated to reflect changes in society. In the era of ‘Time’s Up’ and ‘Me Too,’ society’s view on the issue of sexual assault and harassment is finally changing and we cannot have antiquated laws that won’t adequately address claims such as these. This year, by passing the ‘Time’s Up’ bill, Connecticut finally took concrete steps to change these outdated laws as well as the status quo about what is considered acceptable behavior. This new legislation sends a message to victims that we believe you and hear you and I’m hopeful that more victims of sexual assault and harassment will feel empowered to come forward and seek justice.”

The case was filed on October 2, 2019 and is now pending in Hartford Superior Court. These women have chosen to come forward as advocates for other individuals who may experience or have experienced this kind of violence. Their case is receiving legal and public relations support from the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, which helps defray legal and public relations costs in select cases for those who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation in the workplace.

The Fund is housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, an established, national women’s rights legal organization. A network of lawyers and public relations professionals across the country work to provide assistance to those who have experienced harassment or retaliation.

Background on the “Time’s Up” Act & Sexual Harassment

In FY 2018, 84% of the sexual harassment complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were filed by women, which is fairly consistent with data kept since 1998.[1] 70% to 80% of people who experience workplace harassment do not report it.[2] Sadly, sometimes this is the reasonable course of action because those who do report general mistreatment at work experience retaliation 75% of the time.[3] Victims of harassment have rights, and the fact they suffer more when these rights are exercised is unacceptable. Harassment undercuts hardworking individuals who deserve the same opportunities as others, and it generates real mental and economic hardship. Further, it hurts a company’s bottom line because it diminishes worker productivity and leads to staff turnover.

New Training Requirements

Under previous law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide at least two hours of training on sexual harassment to its supervisory employees within six months of her or his employment. Public Act 19-16 requires employers with 3 or more employees to provide training, and extends the requirement to all employees.

New employees – For employees hired after October 1, 2019, training must be provided within six months (i.e. April 1, 2020).

Current employees – Those employed prior to October 1, 2019 have until October 1, 2020 to be trained.

Training requirements will not take effect until CHRO makes available an online video or other interactive material, which can be accessed to satisfy the requirement.

Protections for Employees Who Come Forward

Employers attempt to resolve allegations of sexual harassment by suspending the accuser, changing the accuser’s responsibilities, or imposing other modifications to separate the accuser and alleged offender. Such action can disrupt the accuser’s job performance and career prospects. Public Acts 19-16 requires an employer to obtain the accuser’s written consent before taking “corrective action,” i.e. action in response to an allegation, that modifies the accuser’s employment conditions. Public Act 19-93[4] includes a safe harbor provision for an employer that does not obtain written consent if the corrective action was reasonable and not of detriment to the victim.

[1] EEOC Release, Preliminary FY2018 Sexual Harassment Data (Oct. 4, 2018) available at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-4-18.cfm; EEOC, Charges Alleging Sex-Based Harassment (FY 2010-FY2018), available at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/sexual_harassment_new.cfm. 2 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, p 16 (June 2016); see also Huffington Post, Poll of 1,000 Adults in United States on Workplace Sexual Harassment (Aug. 2013). 3 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, p 16 (June 2016); Lilia M. Cortina & Vicki J. Magley, Raising Voice, Risking Retaliation: Events Following Interpersonal Mistreatment in the Workplace, 8:4 J. Occupational Health Psychol. 247, 255 (2003). 4 PA 19-93 (S.B. 1111) was passed by the Senate subsequent to PA 19-16 (S.B. 3) in order to ensure House action on S.B. 3.

 

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