Compliance Corner: Sexual Harassment

Earlier this year, New York state signed the 2019 State Budget which updated the state’s sexual harassment laws.

The legislation lays out several new requirements all employers must meet in their sexual harassment policies.

  • The policies must prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  • Provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
  • Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws;
  • Include a complaint form;
  • Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties;
  • Inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially;
  • Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue; and
  • Clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.

As a part of the law, every employer in the state must provide sexual harassment prevention training that includes the following minimum requirements:

  • The training must be interactive;
  • Include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the New York Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  • Include examples that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
  • Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provision concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment;
  • Include information about employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints; and
  • It must include information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for supervisors.

Employees need to complete this training annually, and it must be provided in the language spoken by employees.

Employers have until October 9, 2019, to comply with the training requirements. The policy requirements became effective on October 9, 2018. Employers can learn more about the state’s website. The website includes a model sexual harassment prevention policy, sexual harassment training script, sexual harassment complaint form, additional explanations of employers’ legal obligations, and FAQs about the new requirements.

Organizations with employees in New York state should evaluate and update their sexual harassment policies to meet the new requirements. Additionally, employers should watch for additional requirements in other jurisdictions as state legislatures respond to the #MeToo movement.

Compliance Corner is a feature on the PeopleScout blog. At least once a month, we’ll be featuring a compliance issue that’s in the news or on our minds. Understanding the patchwork of labor laws across the world is complicated, but it’s part of what we do best. If you have questions on the compliance issue discussed in this post, please reach out to your PeopleScout account team or contact us at marketing@peoplescout.com.

Post by Nicole Fuqua