Sexual Harassment Training Will Become Mandatory for Many New York City Employers in April 2019

Sexual harassment in the workplace is considered to be unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex under federal, state, and city law in New York City. Employment discrimination laws in most jurisdictions do not require anti-sexual harassment training for managers, supervisors, and employees, but many regulatory agencies encourage them. The purpose of these programs is to educate both employees and management about their legal rights and obligations under antidiscrimination law. New York City is now going a step further. Under Local Law 96 of 2018, employers with fifteen or more employees will be required to conduct anti-sexual harassment trainings beginning in April 2019. This new requirement is part of a package of laws known as the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, which the mayor signed into law in May 2018.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) both prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). Neither statute specifically mentions training programs in its antidiscrimination provisions. Regulations promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) state that “[p]revention is the best tool for the elimination of sexual harassment.” 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(f). The agency recommends that employers “take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring,” including educating employees about their rights under Title VII. Id. This implies training without specifically mentioning it.

The EEOC often includes mandatory training as part of settlement agreements in sexual harassment claims. In December 2018, for example, the agency settled a claim against a company that operates franchises of a sandwich restaurant in upstate New York. Two complainants alleged that a manager offered them jobs in exchange for sex, and did not hire them when they refused. In addition to damage payments to the complainants, the company agreed to “distribute a revised policy prohibiting sexual harassment” and “conduct anti-harassment training for managers and employees.”

Local Law 96 amends the NYCHRL to require covered employers in New York City to take a proactive approach to anti-sexual harassment training. The training must be “interactive,” meaning that it must be “participatory” on the part of trainees, rather than just a lecture. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(30)(a). Training must occur at least once a year, and new hires must receive training within ninety days.

Minimum requirements for a training program include:
– Identification of sexual harassment as a violation of local, state, and federal law;
– Practical examples of sexual harassment;
– Internal procedures for sexual harassment claims;
– Complaint procedures through city, state, and federal agencies, such as the EEOC;
– Information on retaliation as a prohibited practice;
– Resources for bystander intervention; and
– Specific duties of managers and supervisors regarding prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation.

The experienced and skilled employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent New York City employees, former employees, and job applicants. We advocate for our clients’ rights in claims for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and other unlawful workplace practices. Please contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

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