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Sexual Harassment Update

New York State Passes Legislation Requiring Employers to Provide Greater Protections against Sexual Harassment.  THIS IS NOW LAW IN NEW YORK.

The New Your State budget included several initiatives designed to strengthen protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. Effective immediately, the legislation expands protections against sexual harassment under the NYS Human Rights law to non-employees including independent contractors and subcontractors.

Effective October 9, 2018, all employers in New York must adopt a sexual harassment policy and training program that meet certain standards. Details of the new requirements are included below.

  • Model Policy
    The NYS Department of Labor in consultation with the NYS Department of Human Rights is required to create and publish a model sexual harassment prevention guidance document and sexual harassment prevention policy. Every New York employer must adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy that meets or exceeds the state’s model policy. The policy must also be provided to all employees in writing.

  • Training Program
    The NYS DOL is also required to create a model sexual harassment prevention training program. Every New York employer must deliver the state’s model sexual harassment prevention training program or a training program that meets or exceeds the minimum standards provided by the state’s model training. The training must be interactive and be provided annually to all employees.

Details regarding the new requirements can be found on the New York State Senate website at: www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/catharine-young/2018-19-state-budget-includes-landmark-sexual-harassment-law

Additionally, employers with workers in New York City should be aware of the recently enacted Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act which includes a separate requirement for employers with 15 or more employees to provide annual interactive workplace harassment prevention training for all employees, including interns, as of April 1, 2019. Additional information will be available soon on the NYC Human Rights Commission website.

Albany, NY – A victory for victims and a defining moment for New York, there are sweeping new protections included in 2018-19 state budget to combat the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. The framework of the new law adheres closely to a comprehensive initiative introduced in December while also incorporating elements supported by the Governor and members of the Senate and Assembly.

With this law, New York is embracing the call to action demanded by the many courageous voices who have brought the issue of sexual harassment out of the darkness and into the light. Victims will no longer be silenced and abusers will no longer be protected by antiquated laws and by a culture that has too often looked the other way.
The provisions in this law target sexual harassment from every angle. We clear the path to justice by prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual harassment and expanding protections to freelance and contract workers who previously had no recourse. We lift the veil of anonymity that has protected serial abusers with new limitations on secret settlements. We protect taxpayers from shouldering the financial burden of sexual harassment settlements involving public employees. And we provide consistency and clarity to all employers and employees – public and private – by mandating adoption of strong new standards set by the state.

The major reforms would:

  • Prohibit secret settlements unless the victim requests confidentiality. Lifting the veil of anonymity from abusers would help prevent their ability to engage in serial predatory behavior.
  • Prohibit mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment complaints. Mandatory arbitration clauses are often used by employers to force sexual harassment victims into private arbitration proceedings, which precludes their ability to seek legal action.
  • Protect contract employees and freelance workers. Currently, individuals who are not employees but are present in the workplace on a contract basis cannot file complaints against their harassers. The legislation would close this loophole by extending to contract workers the same right to file sexual harassment complaints to the state Division of Human Rights as individuals who are directly employed by the company or entity.
  • Require adoption of a model sexual harassment policy by all public and private employers. The Department of Labor, in consultation with the state Division of Human Rights, would be required to establish the policy which would be a minimum requirement for all employers.
  • Protect taxpayer funds from being used for individual sexual harassment judgements. When there is a finding or admission of sexual harassment by a state or local employee, this measure holds the harasser financially accountable for the judgement by enabling the public entity to recoup taxpayer money.

CONTACT US to send you a complete package of requirements and employee presentation materials for you to use to educate your employees of this new law.