Connecticut moved a step closer to reforming state sexual harassment and sexual assault laws on Tuesday, as the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee passed the Time’s Up Act.
An Act Combating Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault — dubbed the Time’s Up Act in reference to the nationwide movement against sexual harassment and assault — was proposed by the Connecticut Senate Democrats in February, in the midst of a nationwide reckoning with sexual assault in the workplace. Senate Democrats hailed the proposed legislation, which passed the judiciary committee by a 25–16 margin, as the “largest overhaul of Connecticut’s sexual assault and sexual harassment laws in modern history.” The bill would enact across-the-board reforms to the handling of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
“It sends a very clear message that Connecticut will continue to be a national leader in the issue,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. “We’re going to make sure that our laws are up to date and protect everybody in the workplace.”
The bill will require increased training and education in workplaces, reform the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities complaint process, expand and strengthen the state’s mandated reporter laws, provide injunctive relief and punitive damages, and design a universal process for harassment investigations against school administrators.
It also proposes eliminating statutes of limitation for sexual assault crimes above a certain class of criminality — namely all felony and Class A misdemeanors — and an increase in financial penalties for offenders.
The bill is designed to promote workplace safety and the protection of school-aged children. It includes measures expanding mandated reporting requirements to include a wider range of people and removing existing exemptions from mandated reporter laws for certain day-care centers.
Current state law requires sexual harassment training only when an employer has 50 or more employees, and then only for employees in supervisory roles. The bill seeks to lower that threshold to three employees and extend the training requirement to all employees. It would also ban the use of non-disclosure agreements, which are often used to keep victims of sexual harassment quiet.
The bill’s co-sponsors include Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, state Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, and state Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire. The act will enact protections for victims and increase penalties for offenders.
Although the bill was proposed by Senate Democrats, it has garnered bipartisan support, with some Republicans crossing party lines to vote with the Democrats on Tuesday. When the bill was first unveiled in February, Republican representatives told the News they were disappointed that it was not initiated as a bipartisan effort.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote comes in the wake of U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s, D-Conn., announcement that she will not seek re-election after revelations that she had covered up sexual harassment and abuse allegations against Tony Baker, her former chief of staff.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org