Complying with New York State Law to Prevent Sexual Harassment at Work

An employer's guide from HR One

Sexual Harassment Charges 2017

With many high-profile cases in the news of prominent individuals who have engaged in sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, and the subsequent surge of the #MeToo movement, there has been an emerging consensus that proactive steps to prevent harassment are needed. While the issue of sexual harassment and assault impacts almost every facet of society, workplace harassment and assault in particular seem to be an area that policy makers are focusing on when it comes to regulation.

As part of the 2019 state budget process, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law designed to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace as well as regulate how employers handle reported instances of harassment. The law and it's implementation have created some confusion for employers. Below is HR One's guide to the law, the compliance requirements, timeline of implementation, and guidance on the human resources best practices to help organizations comply with the law.

What does the law do? Policy Requirements Training Requirements
Important Dates Enforcement What Steps to Take

 

What does the law do?

The new state laws governing workplace sexual harassment and assault have three major components that will impact employers:

  1. Requires all employers to develop sexual harassment and assault prevention policies;
  2. Requires all employers to conduct annual sexual harassment training for all employees;
  3. Prohibits employers from requiring mandatory non-disclosure and/or arbitration agreements of sexual harassment claims (unless these are part of a collective bargaining agreement).

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What needs to be in the policy?

  • A statement prohibiting sexual harassment and examples of what constitutes harassment;
  • Information about federal, state, and local sexual-harassment laws and the remedies that are available to victims;
  • A standard complaint form;
  • A complaint procedure that ensures due process for all parties;
  • An explanation of employees' external rights of redress and the available administrative and judicial forums for bringing complaints;
  • A statement that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against those who engage in sexual harassment and against supervisors who knowingly allow such behavior to continue;
  • A non-retaliation statement for reporting sexual harassment or testifying or assisting in related proceedings.

HR One has developed language for our clients that can be used to update the anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures within their employee handbooks.

HR One has made a sample complaint form available under the "Forms" section of the Member Login area above.

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Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

What needs to be in the training?

First, it’s important to note that the training must be interactive. It can be an in-person seminar, a webinar, or one on one. The training must include:

  • An explanation of sexual harassment and specific examples of inappropriate conduct;
  • Detailed information concerning federal, state and local laws and the remedies available to victims of harassment;
  • An explanation of employees' external rights of redress and the available administrative and judicial forums for bringing complaints.

HR one has created a training program that complies with the law. In addition to the training seminar for all employees within an organization HR One has also developed a Train-the-Trainer program to teach supervisors and managers how to conduct the training internally with their employees.

For more information complete and submit the form below.

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When does the law take effect?

Some aspects of the law have already taken effect as of July 11, 2018

  • Employers are prohibited from forcing employees into arbitration agreements;
  • Confidential settlement agreements must be consented to by the claimant, who has 21 days to consider the confidentiality statement and 7 days to revoke their acceptance of a confidentiality agreement;
  • Protections of the law apply to non-employees (including customers, vendors, prospects, etc.)

Employers need to have their harassment prevention and reporting policies in place by October 9, 2018

All current employees should complete training by October 9, 2019.

As a best practice, employers should make sure their employees are trained on the sexual harassment prevention and reporting policy for their organization as soon as possible, especially if an organization is introducing a new policy or making changes to an existing one in order to comply with the law.

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How will the law be enforced?

In addition to the many stories of sexual harassment and assault in the news, the state has taken steps to educate the public about the law and the remedies that are available if an individual feels they are being harassed, including how to file a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights has primary enforcement responsibility.

As a best practice, employers should obtain written acknowledgment or documentation from employees when they issue the new or updated policy and have completed the training.

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What steps should organizations take now?

All employers should review their existing employee handbook and policies governing sexual harassment, the reporting and investigating of workplace complaints, and their corrective discipline and retaliation policies. HR One can review existing policies and, for organizations that do not have policies in place, HR One can develop policies that comply with the regulations and reflect human resource best practices.

HR One also offers training on a wide variety of topics, including sexual harassment. In addition to being able to provide the mandatory training for all employees, HR One can also customize training for supervisors and managers that can teach them how to properly prevent, report, and investigate claims of workplace sexual harassment.

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 Questions? Complete and submit the form below!