More States Legislate Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Employers

Mandatory sexual harassment training for employers, including churches, is a growing trend in the United States and its territories.

In June 2020, Church Law & Tax summarized the emerging nationwide trend of sexual harassment prevention training laws mandated by states for private employers. 

Since then, that trend has doubled. Whereas seven states put such laws on the books as of 2020, 14 now do so midway through 2024, as do the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

And religious employers, including churches, aren’t explicitly exempted from these requirements by the laws in these jurisdictions: 





District of Columbia





New York


Puerto Rico

Rhode Island



West Virginia

In addition, administrative or regulatory agencies in 12 more states strongly recommend private employers provide anti-harassment training to all employees, particularly those in supervisory positions..

The states that mandate training require employers to cover several core topics. But these laws also vary in several significant ways by jurisdiction. 

Dig Deeper: To better understand the common traits of state training laws and what they mean for churches, see “What Churches Should Know About State-Mandated Sexual Harassment Training Laws.

Many state courts will likely apply these statutes to any claims brought against church employers unless those courts recognize a religiously based exception to the statutes. Until such a development occurs, churches located in these places will need to determine how to best comply.

Here, then, are key highlights for each state’s statutes.

1. California

All California employers with five or more employees must regularly provide two hours of training regarding sexual harassment to all supervisorial employees, and one hour of training to other employees. 

While California exempts nonprofit religious corporations from its fair employment laws in most instances, churches that employ five or more people in taxable unrelated business are not exempt from this regulation. However, most churches do not engage in taxable unrelated business and thus are not mandated to provide sexual harassment prevention training.

Even so, churches may wish to consider voluntarily providing training in this area. Harassment claims are not uncommon in churches, and having a training program may provide evidence of the church’s diligence with training should a future allegation arise. It may also prevent other forms of harassment. 

For those churches and other religious organizations that are subject to the law because they employ five or more individuals in taxable unrelated business activities, the training must take place at least once every two years. The training must be provided within six months of hire, or promotion to a supervisory position. For individuals who will be employed for less than six months, the training must take place within 30 days or 100 hours of work from their starting date. 

In determining whether the employer has five employees, all persons under the direction and control of the employer are counted, including out-of-state employees, volunteers, and unpaid interns, even though the actual training is only provided to California-based paid employees. 

Notably, all employers–including churches and religious nonprofits–that provide sexual harassment training must include training on the prevention of abusive conduct, and that includes harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation as part of the training. Cal. Gov. Code §§12950-12950.1.

2. Colorado

Colorado statutes do not specifically require employers to provide sexual harassment training. However, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which adopts rules for enforcing Colorado’s Civil Rights Act, states in its rules and regulations that employers are encouraged to “take all steps necessary” to prevent discrimination and harassment, including affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, promulgating and distributing an anti-discrimination policy, and training. 

3 CCR 708-1, Rule 20-6. Rule 85.1(G) provides that an affirmative defense to a claim of workplace harassment includes the fact that “the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any harassing behavior.” 

In light of this, there are compelling grounds for churches to require such training.  

3. Connecticut

All employers in Connecticut with three or more employees must prominently post in the workplace a notice regarding the illegality of sexual harassment, as well as remedies. They must also provide employees with written materials on the subject within three months of their hiring, and two hours of training within six months of hire. The training need not be repeated.

Connecticut’s law requires that employers with fewer than three employees still provide the same training within six months to employees who take on supervisory roles. 

If an employee has received training provided by the state’s commission on human rights while employed by a different employer within the two years preceding the date of hire, an employer may consider that prior training to satisfy the training requirements of Connecticut’s law. 

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §46a-54. Regs. Conn. State Agencies §46a-54-204.

4. Delaware

Employers with 50 or more employees must provide interactive training in sexual harassment prevention within one year of hiring, and every two years thereafter. The statute provides specific topics that must be covered in the training. Additional training is required for supervisors. However, the statute does not provide a specific length of time for the training. Del. Code Ann. title 19§711A(g).

5. District of Columbia

Washington, D.C., does not have mandatory training requirements that would include churches or ministries generally. 

However, the District does mandate training for employers of tipped employees, which can affect some services ministries provide to the public.

Under the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Act, employers must provide training to all employees that includes how to respond to, to intervene in, and to prevent sexual harassment. The training must be repeated every two years. For new hires, the training must be completed within 90 days of hire unless the employee received the training within the previous two years. Employers must also follow the document submission compliance requirements of the Act. D.C. Code § 2-1411.05a(f)(4). 

6. Hawaii

All employers are subject to the state’s statute, which borders on a recommendation for training but reads as a requirement. The law states:

Employers should affirmatively raise the subject [of sexual harassment], express strong disapproval, develop appropriate sanctions, inform employees of their right to raise and how to raise the issue of sexual harassment, and take any other steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Haw. Code R. §12-46-109(g).

7. Illinois

Employers of one or more employees are required to provide annual training that equals or exceeds information provided by the Department of Human Rights in a model sexual discrimination prevention training program (775 ILCS 5/2-109).

Additionally, restaurant and bar owners must provide–in both English and Spanish–written industry-specific sexual harassment training to all employees within one week of hire (775 ILCS 5/2-110).

While “restaurant” is defined as a business “primarily engaged in the sale of ready-to-eat food,” and thus would not likely extend to churches that provide the sales of food, churches or ministries that operate food sale services as separate corporations may come under this requirement. 

8. Maine

All employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide training within one year of hiring any employee, including supervisors. While the statute addressing the form of training is not specific about the duration or method of training, it provides a lengthy description of what must be covered, including a description of sexual harassment with examples, the complaint process, and prohibitions on retaliation. Supervisorial and managerial employees are required to receive additional training within one year of hire that covers the specific responsibilities of their positions. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. title 26 § 807.

9. Massachusetts

Massachusetts General Law “encourages” employers to educate and train their employees within one year of hire, with additional training also required for supervisory positions. The content of that training is not explicitly set forth. Employers are also annually required to provide a written copy of their policy against sexual harassment to all employees. M.G.L. c. 151B § 3A(e).

10. New York

Every employer must adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. It must be a policy that:

  • prohibits sexual harassment, 
  • gives examples of harassment, 
  • discusses remedies, 
  • provides a complaint form, 
  • features a procedure for investigation of complaints,
  • informs employees of their rights of redress, 
  • clearly states that sexual harassment is a form of misconduct and that supervisors who knowingly allow such behaviors to continue are subject to sanction, and
  • prohibits retaliation.

The training must be given annually. 

Under New York’s model policy—which must be met or exceeded by the employer through a separately drafted policy—states that sexual harassment includes harassment based on sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived gender, gender identity, and transgender status. Gender stereotyping, which is prohibited under the model policy, occurs when personality traits “are considered inappropriate because they do not conform to other people’s ideas.” N.Y. Labor Law § 201-g.

11. Ohio

Ohio law states that employers “should” take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, including “developing methods to sensitize all concerned.” Ohio Adm. Code 4112-5-05(J)(6).

12. Puerto Rico

All employers in Puerto Rico are required to educate employees on the prohibition of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. Puerto Rico’s code is not explicit on how often this education is to occur or how many hours are required. Act 90-2020.

13. Rhode Island

Employers in Rhode Island are encouraged under the state’s law to provide a training program to all employees within one year of hire. Additionally, the code encourages additional training for supervisors to be given within one year of hire. The law is not explicit on the content or length of the training. R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-51-2(c).

14. Vermont

Vermont employers are “encouraged” under state law to provide training to all new employees within one year of hire. The training should be completed annually with all employees. Additional training is encouraged for supervisory positions that should be completed within one year of hire and should include the specific responsibilities of supervisors and managers. 21 Vt. Stat. Ann. § 495h (f)(1)-(3).

15. Washington

Washington does not mandate training that would bind churches or ministries generally.

However, Washington requires that all hotel, motel, retail, security guard entities, and property services contractors provide mandatory training to all employees who spend the majority of their working hours alone. Since “retail” is a potentially broad, expansive term, ministries that engage in sales of products or goods should be aware of this requirement and ascertain whether their activity falls within the scope of regulations. 

The training must cover the prevention of sexual assault and harassment as well as the prevention of sexual discrimination. 

It must also educate employees on protection for individuals who report violations. 

As the statute in Washington is designed to protect isolated workers who may spend most of their working hours away from other employees, the state also requires that all covered employees be provided a panic button or emergency assistance device which would immediately summon assistance from another employer or security guard. 

All employers with 50 or fewer employees must adhere to harassment guidance published by Washginton’s Department of Labor and Industries. RCW 49.60.515.

16. West Virginia 

West Virginia is another state that “encourages” employers to do what is reasonable to prevent sexual harassment, including educating their employees. W. Va. Code R. § 77-4-3.5.

States that recommend sexual harassment training

The following states do not specifically require sexual harassment training of their employers; however, they each have an administrative or regulatory agency that recommends some degree of training. The authority of each agency varies, as some are tasked with enforcement of the state’s civil rights laws and others are not. Additionally, some of these agencies have prepared a free prevention training program for their state’s employers. 


Human Rights Commission Harassment Prevention


Iowa Civil Rights Commission Harassment Fact Sheet


Kansas Human Rights Commission Harassment Fact Sheet


Montana Department of Labor and Industry Sexual Harassment Prevention


Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission Statement on Eliminating Harassment


Nevada Equal Rights Commission Discrimination Prevention

North Dakota

North Dakota Department of Labor Brochure on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace


Bureau of Labor and Industry Sexual Harassment Prevention


Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Guidelines on Sexual Harassment

South Dakota

South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation Brochure on Avoiding Sexual Harassment 


Texas Workforce Commission Recommendation Regarding Employment Discrimination


Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division Statement on Harassment in the Workplace

Jessica Frieberg is a paralegal at the Church Law Center of California. She has dedicated the past 14 years of her legal career to serving nonprofits and has extensive experience working with churches and other religious organizations. 

Myron Steeves is founder and senior attorney at the Church Law Center of California, and dean emeritus of Trinity Law School. Steeves serves charities, religious organizations, trade associations, political organizations, and higher education institutions through his practice by offering sound legal guidance from a faith-based perspective.

Steeves is an active member of the nonprofit committees of both the California Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association (ABA), and chairs the ABA’s Religious Organizations Subcommittee. He frequently speaks on a wide array of issues involving Christianity and the law, including the integration of faith and law, legal careers as tools for Christian ministry, law and public policy, and law and theology.

He earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and his undergraduate degree from Biola University.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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