Recently, Maryland Senate Bill 450 (SB 450) went into effect, revising the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace by changing the standard of sexual harassment from “severe or pervasive” conduct to the “totality of the circumstances” in sexual harassment cases.
The previous standard of “severe or pervasive conduct” was a rather high standard that made it particularly challenging for employees to prevail because they were required to show the conduct they faced in the workplace was so offensive, threatening or consistent that their place of employment was unbearable. Under the previous standard, fleeting sexual remarks did not rise to a level of legally actionable sexual harassment.
The new “totality of the circumstances” standard looks to whether a reasonable person would perceive the working environment as abusive or hostile. This new relaxed standard significantly expands the scope of conduct which may support a claim of sexual harassment. This will likely lead to an increase in viable sexual harassment claims and increased litigation costs because winning summary judgment will become exceedingly difficult. To read the full text of Senate Bill 450, click here.
Maryland employers should consider arranging for sexual harassment training for their workforce to ensure employees and management have a better understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment, how it can be prevented, how employees can report an incident and how complaints should be addressed.
Our Labor and Employment Group at Shulman Rogers offer annual sexual harassment training to our clients throughout the year. The training is typically comprised of a one-hour training presentation for all employees and an additional one-hour training for supervisors and management. The training can be recorded and made available to clients following the presentation so that employees that are hired over the course of the year can watch the recordings and complete the training during the onboarding process.
If you have any questions about this Alert, we encourage you to reach out to your Shulman Rogers contact for solutions and recommendations for addressing these issues.
The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group.
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