New York’s strict workplace harassment law was passed as part of the 2019 budget. The law amended several of the state’s labor and other employment-related laws to provide increased protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. Effective April 12, 2018, the amendments extend the right to file sexual harassment claims to non-employees. Previously, only employees could file these claims against an employer.
Effective July 11, 2018, the amendments prohibit employers from including any:
Nondisclosure requirements within any settlement or other agreement to resolve a sexual harassment claim, unless the complainant prefers to include one; or
Mandatory arbitration requirements for sexual harassment claims within any written contract.
Effective Oct. 9, 2018, the amendments require every employer in the state to:
- Adopt a written sexual harassment prevention policy;
- Distribute the written policy to employees; and
- Conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training for employees.
The budget law directs the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) to develop a model written policy and a model training program. Once these are available, employers may adopt them as their own to comply with the law or create their own which would be equal to or stricter than this model.
At minimum, the law requires an employer’s written policy to include:
- A statement that sexual harassment is prohibited and examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
- Information about federal and state statutory provisions relating to sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, along with a statement that there may be applicable local laws;
- A standard complaint form.
A procedure for timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties
- Information about employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints;
- A clear statement that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against both those who engage in sexual harassment and any supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow it to continue; and
- A clear statement that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any proceeding under the law is unlawful.
The law’s minimum requirements for an employer’s sexual harassment prevention training program are that it must be interactive and include:
- An explanation of sexual harassment and examples of conduct that would be unlawful;
- Information about federal and state statutory provisions relating to sexual harassment and remedies available to victims;
- Information about employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints; and
- Information about conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisory personnel.
Considerations for Employers
In addition to the state budget law’s new requirements, a local law enacted by the New York City Council on April 11, 2018, requires employers in New York City that have 15 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to each new employee after 90 days of employment and to all employees on an annual basis. Once the law is signed by the Mayor, these and related requirements under the city’s new Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act will go into effect on April 1, 2019. Employers should become familiar with all applicable state and local laws to ensure that their sexual harassment prevention policies, training programs and other workplace policies comply with all requirements by the appropriate deadlines.