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Employment Law, Benefits & Compensation

Got New York Employees? Take Note of New Sexual Harassment Prevention Laws

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The #MeToo movement has sparked a renewed focus on targeting and eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace, and the state of New York has adopted new sexual harassment prevention laws in an effort to be a national leader in the area. Most notably, the new laws require that all New York employers—even those with only one New York employee—must adopt sexual harassment prevention policies that are compliant with the new law and provide annual training to their New York employees on those policies.

Effective October 9, 2018, all employers must have either implemented the state’s model sexual harassment prevention policy, available here, or created their own policy that meets or exceeds the standards required by the law. The policy must also have been distributed to all New York state employees by such date.

In addition, employers must either adopt the state’s model interactive sexual harassment prevention training program, or implement their own compliant program, in either case to be administered annually to all New York employees. Employers have until October 9, 2019 to train current employees. New hires should be trained “as quickly as possible,” and within 30 calendar days of hire.

To comply with the new law, New York employers’ sexual harassment policies must:

  • Prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the NY Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  • Provide examples of prohibited conduct;
  • Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment and a statement that there may be applicable local laws;
  • Include a complaint form;
  • Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties;
  • Inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially;
  • Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue; and
  • Clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.

Other highlights of the new law include prohibition of non-disclosure agreements regarding sexual harassment unless confidentiality is the employee’s preference, and the prohibition of mandatory arbitration provisions for claims of sexual harassment in new employment agreements.

Keep in mind that New York’s model policy and minimum requirements may not meet the requirements of federal law or other states in which employers operate, so employers are encouraged to consult with an employment lawyer before replacing their current policy.

Hutchison attorneys are available to help draft or review your sexual harassment policy for compliance. Feel free to comment below, email me or connect with me on LinkedIn if you have any questions.

The blog content should not be construed as legal advice.

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