I saw an interesting blog post from Brian McGinnis of Fox Rothchild that Minnesota is considering a sweeping change in its sexual harassment laws. The proposed change states,
An intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment … does not require the harassing conduct or communication to be severe or pervasive.
McGinnis does a nice job of explaining just what this may mean for businesses and the flood of exposure that may come as a result of removing the severe and pervasive standard.
Will such language changes make its way to Iowa? With the recent cases involving sexual harassment in our state government, there’s no question that more attention will be devoted to the issue. Currently, Iowa law says for state employees “sexual harassment” means persistent, repetitive, or highly egregious conduct directed at a specific individual or group of individuals that a reasonable person would interpret as intentional harassment of a sexual nature, taking into consideration the full context in which the conduct occurs, which conduct threatens to impair the ability of a person to perform the duties of employment, or otherwise function normally within an institution responsible for the person’s care, rehabilitation, education, or training. With claims on the rise due to the #MeToo movement and our governor calling for an independent review of harassment at a state agency, it is not out of line to think Iowa and other states could see similar changes as proposed in Minnesota in the near future.
What does this mean for your business? See my article written in January discussing the rise of sexual harassment claims and what you might be able to do as a business owner to not only avoid liability, but also better your workplace. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Move quickly to stay on top of training and educating employees on harassment and discrimination issues, or you may potentially pay a far greater price than the training and education will cost.