Employers of all sizes are seeking to improve their policies and procedures to prevent workplace sexual harassment
High-profile scandals in the entertainment industry, and the subsequent rise of the #MeToo movement have changed how employers approach workplace harassment
, and have started to influence legislation throughout the United States.
One such example occurred in the State of New York, as well as New York City
, in early April 2018.
Both New York State and New York City passed several new anti-sexual harassment laws that take effect throughout the remainder of 2018. This legislation will have significant impacts on employers, and it is critical for business owners to ensure their companies remains compliant with these new laws.
In this article, we’ll break down the anti-harassment laws at both the New York State and New York City levels.
New York State Anti-Harassment Legislation
The State of New York’s efforts to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace were included in their state budget that was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 12th
Requirements under state laws include mandatory annual sexual harassment training, implementing a sexual harassment policy, and more.
The mandatory training program
must meet certain standards in order to be compliant with the law:
- Training must be interactive.
- Contain examples of what would be deemed unlawful harassment.
- Provide information on state and federal sexual harassment laws.
- Give information on the rights employees have and all available methods for an employee to file a grievance.
The required sexual harassment policy must also contain certain guidelines in order to meet the standards set by the law:
- Clearly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace and provide clear examples of what actions would violate the policy.
- Provide federal, state, and local laws around sexual harassment, as well as any and all resources available to victims of workplace sexual harassment.
- Include a complaint form, as well as the process for an investigation.
- Clearly state that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, is a form of employee misconduct, and that sanctions will be enforced against those who engage in sexual harassment, as well as employees in managerial positions who knowingly allow this type of behavior.
- Contain a section that informs employees that retaliation against those who file a sexual harassment grievance, or testify in any proceeding, is unlawful.
- Must be given to all employees in written form each year.
In addition to these two aspects of the law, there are several other provisions under the state-level laws that have varying effective dates.
, “non-employees” who work and provide services under a contract (contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, etc.) are protected under the New York State Human Rights Law provisions against sexual harassment. This means employers can now be liable if a non-employee was sexually harassed at its workplace and didn’t follow up accordingly and appropriately.
Starting on July 9, 2018
, nondisclosure clauses cannot be used by employers in agreements or settlements involving sexual harassment claims, except if confidentiality is requested by the complainant.
Effective October 9, 2018
, all employers must have their sexual harassment policy and provide annual anti-harassment training.
New York City Anti-Harassment Legislation
The Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act
was passed by the New York City Council on April 11, 2018.
This law mandates that employers who have 15 or more employees must provide sexual harassment training to all new employees after 90 days of employment.
Employers must also provide continual interactive sexual harassment training to employees each year. There are certain requirements that must be included in the training in order to be compliant:
- Clearly explain what actions constitute sexual harassment, and provide examples.
- Describe the internal process for sexual harassment complaints.
- State that retaliation is prohibited under the law.
- Alert employees to the processes and resources available through the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
This training program must be implemented before April 1, 2019. Also, employers will be required to keep training and attendance records for three years
Additionally, all employers must have anti-sexual harassment posters on display in their workplace that are created by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. This will take effect 120 days after the law is signed.
New York and New York City Employers Must Prepare for These Laws Now
With certain aspects of the New York State and New York City laws going into effect immediately and/or in the very near future, employers must prepare for these changes.
Failure to do so will result in compliance issues, which could lead to employee lawsuits and fines at both the state and local levels of the New York government.
It is also worth noting that some New York leaders want to impose even stricter anti-harassment laws in the near future, so employers should keep up with the latest news and reach out for assistance if needed.
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