Earlier this year, New York State and New York City enacted significant changes to sexual harassment laws that affect employers and employees. Both laws mandate sexual harassment prevention policies and annual training along with other changes. These requirements go into effect July 11, 2018 through April 1, 2019 depending on the provision. Below is a brief summary of the rules with effective dates.
New York State
Effective July 11, 2018, New York law now prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses in employment agreements for claims of workplace sexual harassment. (See NY Civil Practice Law & Rules (CPLR) § 7515). In addition, nondisclosure provisions are prohibited in a settlement, agreement or other resolution of any claim or lawsuit involving sexual harassment unless the complainant prefers confidentiality. The complainant/plaintiff has 21 days to consider the confidentiality terms and even if s/he signs an agreement, s/he has 7 days to revoke it after signing. (See § 5-336 of the General Obligations Law and CPLR § 5003-b).
Effective October 9, 2018, all New York State employers must provide the following:
- A written sexual harassment prevention policy given to employees, which contains:
- A standard complaint form to be used by employees for internal complaints;
- A procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties;
- Clear statements regarding what sexual harassment is, what laws apply, that retaliation is prohibited and what remedies are available through various laws.
- Mandatory annual sexual harassment training for all employees, which entails:
- Explanations of sexual harassment, examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment, remedies available, and rights of redress and available forums for adjudicating complaints;
- An “interactive” component. While the law does not define “interactive,” it will likely require some participation by the trainee with the material presented during the training.
Employers should note that the New York State Division of Human Rights is required to publish model policies and training programs for use by employers. However, this may take months, so employers must have internal policies and training programs in place by October 9thand not wait for the department to publish its versions.
New York City
Effective immediately, New York City law allows claims of sexual and gender-based harassment by all New York City employees, regardless of the size of the employer. Prior to this law, New York City’s human rights law prohibiting discrimination applied only to employers with 4 or more employees.
Starting September 6, 2018, New York City employers must post an anti-harassment poster designed by the New York City Commission on Human Rights in the workplace in a conspicuous location and provide a corresponding information sheet to employees at the time of hire.
Effective April 1, 2019, all New York City employers with 15 or more employees must provide annual anti-sexual harassment interactive training, which in addition to the requirements set forth in state law, must include information regarding:
- The complaint process available through the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including contact information;
- Bystander intervention, including any resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention.
The City’s law specifically provides that interactive training does not need to entail live or in-person instruction but must require participation by trainees.
All New York State employers must comply with the new law regardless of the size of the business. New York City has additional provisions which apply to all or some employers.
For more information on the new legal requirements, contact usfor a consultation.