Deadline Arrives for Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training by New York Employers

The New York Legislature enacted multiple measures last year addressing workplace sexual harassment. The governor signed them all into law as part of the budget bill in April 2018. One section requires employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy and provide training to their employees. The bill gave them until October 9, 2018 to adopt a policy, which could be the model policy developed by the state, or a policy that meets the new law’s standards. The required training must be provided annually, which means that October 9, 2019 was the statewide deadline by which all employers must have conducted their first training. According to various news reports, not everyone met the deadline. This comes as little surprise to New York City sexual harassment lawyers, of course, but it is worth noting once again how antidiscrimination laws require constant attention and vigilance.

The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a). Decades of caselaw have held that sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination under the NYSHRL and similar statutes. A recent amendment to the NYSHRL expanded the law’s coverage in sexual harassment cases. While the law usually only applies to employers with at least four employees, it applies to all employers in the state for sexual harassment claims. Id. at § 292(5).

Part KK of the 2019 budget bill contains multiple new measures related to sexual harassment. Subpart E added a new section to the Labor Law entitled “Prevention of Sexual Harassment.” N.Y. Lab. L. § 201-G. This section directed the state to create a model sexual harassment prevention policy, and required employers to adopt this policy or a similar one by October 9, 2018.

To comply with this law, an employer’s sexual harassment policy must:
– Be in a written form provided to all employees;
– Clearly identify sexual harassment as employee misconduct;
– Provide examples of conduct that would be considered sexual harassment;
– Provide information about remedies that are available under local, state, and federal employment laws;
– Describe the employer’s process for investigating complaints;
– Provide a complaint form; and
– State that retaliation against individuals who use the complaint process is also against the law.

The new law also directed the state to create a model training program based on the model sexual harassment prevention policy, and required employers to provide annual training to employees. Employers should use the state’s model program or substitute their own, provided it complies with a set of guidelines.

As the one-year training deadline approached, the news media examined New York businesses’ compliance. Some observers found that larger employers with their own human resources departments were in compliance, but some smaller employers were falling behind. Numerous companies offering sexual harassment prevention trainings have offered their services to smaller employers. Difficulties with the deadline were not limited to the private sector. The New York Senate reportedly had not conducted training for lawmakers and their staffers by October 9.

The skilled and experienced New York City sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of employees, former employees, and job seekers. We represent our clients in claims for sexual harassment under state, federal, and city law. Please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431. to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

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