New Sexual Harassment Laws for Employers
The New York State Legislature and New York City Council have recently enacted new measures in an attempt to prevent sexual harassment. Both legislative bodies passed a series of new laws that employers need to be aware of and comply with.
New York State
The budget bill, which was signed by the Governor on April 12, 2018, contains numerous provisions designed to prevent and discourage sexual harassment. Private employers should be especially aware of these provisions:
- Mandatory arbitration clauses are now prohibited for sexual harassment claims. As of July 11, 2018, employers will not be permitted to require employees to use mandatory arbitration to resolve any allegations or claims of sexual harassment.
- Nondisclosure agreements are only permitted to be used for claims relating to sexual harassment if the complainant expressly agrees to its use. This provision also goes into effect on July 11, 2018.
- The Department of Labor will create and publish a model sexual harassment prevention guidance document and prevention policy. All employers must adopt the model sexual harassment prevention policy created by the Department of Labor or establish a policy “that equals or exceeds the minimum standards provided by such model….” The policy must be provided to employees in writing. This law will go into effect on October 9, 2018.
- Employers bidding on contracts from the state or any state department or agency must certify that they have implemented a written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention in the workplace and provide sexual harassment training to all of their employees.
- The Department of Labor will create a model sexual harassment training program. All employers will be required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to employees annually, either using the state model, or a training program that equals or exceeds the state program. This requirement will go into effect on October 9, 2018.
- Employers can be held liable for sexual harassment of non-employees, such as contractors, vendors, consultants, or others providing services in the workplace. This provision went into effect on the date the Governor signed the bill, April 12, 2018.
New York City
The New York City Council passed a series of bills on April 11, 2018, which Mayor DeBlasio is expected to sign into law in the coming weeks. Private employers should be especially aware of the following laws which will require employers to provide more information and training to employees and increase employers’ potential liability by extending the statute of limitation for sexual harassment claims and expanding the law to cover employers with fewer than 4 employees.
- Int. 657-A: Expands the New York City Human Rights Law coverage of sexual harassment cases to include employers with fewer than four employees, the current threshold for enforcement.
- Int. 614-A: New York City Human Rights Commission will post resources relating to sexual harassment, including what sexual harassment is and how to make complaints to the New York City Human Rights Commission.
- Int. 630-A: all employers must post an anti-sexual harassment “rights and responsibilities” poster. When hired, each employee must receive an information sheet on sexual harassment from the employer. The New York City Human Rights Commission will create the poster and information sheet.
- Int. 632-A: Employers with at least 15 employees must conduct annual sexual harassment training for employees, starting April 1, 2019. The training must cover specific issues, including bystander intervention. Employers must maintain records of compliance with the law, but the employee acknowledgement of training may be electronic.
- Int. 663-A: The statute of limitations for filing harassment claims with the New York City Human Rights Commission is extended from one year to three years from the alleged conduct.
Employers should have sexual harassment policies and trainings now, and be prepared to ensure they are in compliance with the new requirements enacted by New York State and New York City. Further, employers who have mandatory arbitration agreements, or are in the process of settling claims relating to sexual harassment should be aware of the upcoming changes in the law and make certain that any settlement agreement complies with these statutes.