New York Significantly Expands Its Sexual Harassment Laws: Five Takeaways for Employers

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On March 31, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a sweeping expansion of New York's sexual harassment laws. The new legislation contains a number of provisions that will require most New York employers to update their policies and procedures for preventing and dealing with sexual harassment issues. Of particular note for employers are the following provisions:

1.    Employers Must Implement Written Sexual Harassment Policies 

Even though it was always a best practice, effective October 9, 2018, employers in New York will be required to adopt a written sexual harassment prevention policy. The policy must be distributed to all employees and contain the following provisions: 

  • a statement prohibiting sexual harassment;

  • examples of prohibited conduct;

  • a standard complaint form;

  • information concerning the remedies available to victims of sexual   harassment;

  • information about the available administrative and judicial forums in which a victim can adjudicate sexual harassment complaints; 

  • procedures for the confidential investigation of complaints;

  • a statement prohibiting retaliation;

  • a statement informing employees that sexual harassment constitutes employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against harassers as well as managers and supervisors who knowingly allow sexual harassment to continue.

The New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) will be creating and publishing a model anti-harassment policy. Employers will be able to either adopt the model policy or create their own policy, so long as it meets or exceeds the standards of the model policy.

2.    Employers Must Provide Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

In addition to adopting a sexual harassment prevention policy, New York employers will be required to conduct annual interactive sexual harassment prevention training. The NYDOL will be developing and releasing a model training program. This requirement also becomes effective October 9, 2018.

3.    Confidential Settlements are Prohibited

Effective July 11, 2018, confidentiality provisions will generally be prohibited in settlement agreements involving sexual harassment claims. Confidentiality language may be included at the complainant's request and must give the complainant 21 days to consider the confidentiality language and seven days to revoke acceptance after signing the agreement (similar to a release under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act).

4.    Mandatory Arbitration Agreements are Prohibited

Also effective as of July 11, 2018, any employment related agreements requiring the arbitration of sexual harassment claims will be null and void in New York.

5.    Sexual Harassment Protections Now Apply to Third-Parties 

Effective immediately, protections against sexual harassment have been expanded to cover individuals who are not employees, but are present in the workplace, such as contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and consultants. Employers in New York can now be held liable for the sexual harassment of these non-employees if the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take corrective action.

In preparation for these significant changes to New York's sexual harassment laws, employers in New York should begin reviewing their anti-harassment policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new legal requirements.

If you have any questions about your business's anti-harassment policies or training, please contact us at (201) 345-5412 / (646) 503-5358 or info@morealaw.com.