Washington has a new law intended to prevent the sexual harassment or assault of certain isolated workers. The law applies to every hotel, motel, retail, security guard entity, or “property services contractor” that employs a custodian, security guard, hotel or motel housekeeper, or room-service employee who spends a majority of their working hours alone. (A “property services contractor” is any person or entity that employs workers to provide commercial janitorial services for another person or on behalf of an employer.) These employers are required to:
- Adopt a sexual harassment policy;
- Provide mandatory training to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination in the workplace, and educate employees about protections for those who report violations of the law;
- Provide employees with a list of resources, including contact information for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Washington Human Rights Commission (HRC), and local advocacy groups focused on preventing harassment and assault; and
- Provide a panic button to each isolated worker.
This new law takes effect on July 28, 2019, but employers do not have to meet these requirements immediately. Hotels and motels with 60 or more rooms have until January 1, 2020, to comply; all other affected employers have until January 1, 2021. The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is tasked with publishing advice and guidance for affected employers, and to establish procedures for licensing property services contractors. Also, property services contractors will be required to submit reports to L&I periodically about their efforts to comply with the above requirements, and certain data regarding their isolated workers (ESSB 5258).
Tips for employers: If you think this new law may apply to your organization, please talk with your Vigilant employment attorney. In addition to the requirements laid out in the new law, it is important that you have procedures in place to properly investigate and respond to complaints of harassment, assault, or discrimination.
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