Workplace Harassment Mandates

With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, organizations are increasingly reflecting on harassment in the workplace by implementing more supportive cultural initiatives. As companies look to re-evaluate their transparency, values, and culture, it is important to develop an inclusive workplace where every individual feels comfortable. Not only do incidents of workplace harassment present a risk of litigation, but also an adverse impact on employee morale and productivity.  Education, training and a corporate culture that reinforces “zero tolerance” are the most effective tools to prevent and address (if necessary) incidents of harassment.

What You Need to Know:

New York State and NYC are implementing new laws to further address the importance of prevention and/or swift action against harassment in the workplace. New York State launched a website called Combatting Sexual Harassment in the workplace relating to the laws passed.

Effective 10/9/2018:

All employers in New York must implement a sexual-harassment prevention policy that complies with the law. Specifically, the NYDOL’s model policy:

  • Notes that, while the state’s policy specifically addresses harassment, discrimination against persons of all protected classes is prohibited.
  • Is no longer a “zero tolerance” policy, a position that is consistent with guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Adds that sexual harassment also includes harassment on the basis of “self-identified or perceived sex.”
  • Clarifies that investigations will be kept confidential to the extent possible and that the investigation process set forth may vary from case to case.
  • Removes the 30-day requirement to finish complaint investigations and now states that an investigation must be “prompt and thorough, commenced immediately and completed as soon as possible.”

The new law requires employers to implement mandatory annual training programs and distribute written anti- harassment policies.  Annual Sexual Harassment Prevention training programs must include:

  • An explanation of Sexual Harassment
  • Examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful Sexual Harassment
  • Information regarding federal and states policies/guidelines
  • Information concerning employees’ rights and all available avenues for complaints
  • The Sexual Harassment training program must be interactive

Effective 4/1/2019:  Employers with 15 or more employees must provide mandatory, interactive, annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees, including supervisory and managerial employees.

Trainings must include:

  • An explanation of Sexual Harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under City, State and Federal laws
  • A description of Sexual Harassment and use of examples
  • Any internal or external complaint processes available to employees
  • A prohibition on retaliation and examples
  • Information on bystander intervention, including resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention
  • Specific responsibilities of supervisors and managerial employees in the prevention of Sexual Harassment and retaliation, and measures that such staff may take to appropriately address complaints

Employers must fulfill the initial annual training requirement by Oct. 9, 2019 and annually thereafter. The final guidance requires employers to provide training to new employees as quickly as possible.

Additionally, for NYC Employers: the New York City Council passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, which covers 11 separate bills and will be one of the strictest anti-sexual-harassment laws in the country.  The act is effective as of April 1st, 2019.

  • The law will require employers with 15 or more workers in the city to conduct:
    • Annual, interactive sexual-harassment training for all employees—including interns.
    • Managers and supervisors will need to be provided with additional training and must cover, at a minimum, the specific responsibilities that supervisory and managerial employees have when it comes to preventing sexual harassment and retaliation, and measures they may take to appropriately address sexual-harassment complaints
    • New hires must be trained within 30 days (in addition to the company’s annual training)
    • Employers must keep training records for at least three years, with signed acknowledgment forms from the employees who attended
    • There is a lot of overlap between the state and city laws, but there are some additional obligations for New York City employers, for example, the training must include information about the importance of bystander intervention to curb workplace harassment

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