Client Alert: NY City and State Sexual Harassment Laws

Client Alerts Labor & Employment

Comprehensive Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation Passed in New York City and State

New York City and State have both passed comprehensive legislation imposing a variety of new requirements on employers with respect to preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment.

New York State

As part of the 2018-2019 New York State budget, lawmakers included provisions aimed at preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.  Among other things, the new legislation:

  1. Prohibits mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment complaints, unless required by a collective bargaining agreement (effective July 11, 2018);
  2. Prohibits employers from entering settlements of sexual harassment lawsuits that include non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) unless the complainant (a) requests confidentiality; (b) is given 21 days to consider the terms of the confidentiality agreement; and (c) is given 7 days to revoke after signing (effective July 11, 2018);
  3. Requires all New York employers to conduct sexual harassment training annually (effective October 9, 2018);
  4. Requires all New York employers to implement a policy on sexual harassment (effective October 9, 2018);
  5. Permits employer liability for sexual harassment of non-employees, including contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and consultants (effective immediately); and
  6. Requires bidders for state contracts to submit a certification that they have complied with the sexual harassment training and policy requirements (effective January 1, 2019).

The required sexual harassment training must be interactive and must cover, at minimum:

  • Federal and state law on sexual harassment;
  • Examples of unlawful sexual harassment;
  • Remedies available to victims and redress rights; and
  • All available forums for adjudication of complaints.

To meet the sexual harassment policy requirement, employers must adopt a policy that includes, at minimum:

  • Information regarding federal and state law on sexual harassment;
  • Examples of unlawful sexual harassment;
  • A standard form for complaints;
  • A procedure for investigating complaints;
  • Redress rights;
  • All available forums for adjudication of complaints; and
  • A prohibition of retaliation.

The New York Department of Labor and the New York State Division of Human Rights will be required to collaboratively develop model sexual harassment training materials and policies that employers may choose to adopt.

New York City

On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” which, like the state legislation, is aimed at combating workplace sexual harassment.  Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Act on May 9, 2018. 

The Act requires New York City employers with at least 15 employees to provide interactive sexual harassment training to all employees annually.  The training must be provided to new employees after 90 days of employment.  At minimum, the training must cover:

  • The unlawfulness of sexual harassment under federal, state, and local law;
  • The definition and examples of unlawful sexual harassment;
  • The employer’s internal complaint processes;
  • Complaint processes available through the New York City Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, including contact information;
  • Examples and information on prohibition of retaliation;
  • Information on bystander intervention; and
  • Manager and supervisor responsibility for preventing harassment and retaliation.

The training must be implemented by April 1, 2019. Employers must keep records (including signed acknowledgements) of trainings for at least 3 years. 

Beginning 120 days after the Act is signed into law, all New York City employers will be required to display a poster and provide employees with an information sheet.  The Commission will provide the poster and information sheet on its website.

The Act also extends the statute of limitations for gender-based discrimination claims filed with the Commission from one year to three years.  Further, the Act expands the coverage of the New York City Human Rights Law to apply to employers with fewer than four employees.

Next Steps for New York Employers

Employers with employees in New York should carefully review their harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies and training materials, and revise as needed to comply with these new requirements.

Because of the specific requirements of the new laws, policy changes will be required for all employers with employees in New York City or State.

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NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This publication is not to be considered specific legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of advice from an attorney.  Each client’s situation is unique, and if you have need for legal advice, you should seek advice from an attorney.