California for a long time has had its own Sexual Harassment Policy Training and Posting Requirement. This was discussed in a previous article. New York State and New York City is now following suit.
In response to the tsunami of sexual harassment allegations that have swept the nation in late 2017, Senator Murphy has partnered with Senator Catherine Young and Senator Elaine Phillips to help pass milestone legislation to combat all forms of sexual harassment. The Sexual Harassment Accountability and Protection Act will ban confidential sexual harassment settlements, prohibit mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment complaints, and expand protections for independent contractors. For the first time, this legislation would also write a definition of sexual harassment in state law.
The state legislature also passed The state budget bill for the 2019 fiscal year approved by the New York State Legislature on March 31 and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 12 contains a host of significant provisions to strengthen the state’s sexual harassment laws.
The budget bill contains significant new obligations for private and public employers, aimed at curtailing sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, the bill requires employers in New York to adopt a sexual harassment policy and training program that meet certain standards. Details of the new requirements are presented below.
The state is expected to create and publish a model sexual harassment prevention guidance document and sexual harassment prevention policy. A basic outline of the model policy is available by clicking here (§ 201-g(1)(a)).
The model sexual harassment prevention policy must include the following:
- a statement prohibiting sexual harassment;
- examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute sexual harassment;
- information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims, along with a statement that there may be additional applicable local laws;
- a standard complaint form;
- the procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints;
- a statement informing employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially;
- a statement that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct, and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and managers and supervisory personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue; and
- a statement that retaliation against individuals reporting sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any proceeding is unlawful.
Every employer must adopt the model sexual harassment prevention policy or establish a policy that equals or exceeds the minimum standards provided by the state’s policy. The policy must be provided to all employees in writing.
The state is also expected to produce a model sexual harassment prevention training program. The program will be interactive and will contain certain required content (§ 201-g(2)).
Basically, the model sexual harassment prevention training must be interactive and include the following:
- an explanation of sexual harassment;
- examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
- information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims; and
- information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints.
The model training must also include information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisory personnel.
Every employer must utilize the state’s model sexual harassment prevention training program or establish a training program that equals or exceeds the minimum standards provided by the state’s model training. The training must be provided annually to all employees.
These new requirements take effect October 9, 2018. The law also contains provisions on sexual harassment relating to non-employees (e.g., contractors). Click here (Subparts E and F) to read the law.
Following this, the New York City Council passed a package of bills this week aimed at addressing sexual harassment at work. The new training rule will apply to any private employer with more than 15 people on its payroll. Managers and supervisors will also be required to complete training, according to the bill’s text. The legislation, called the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, taps the city’s commission on human rights to develop an “online interactive” program that can be used to satisfy the training requirement.