On April 11, 2023, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) issued an updated model sexual harassment prevention policy and related training materials. Under New York Labor Law § 201-g, all employers in New York State are required to adopt the DOL’s model sexual harassment prevention policy or alternatively adopt their own policy which equals or exceeds the minimum standards contained in the law and DOL guidance. Labor Law § 201-g also requires employers to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all of their employees. Employers must also provide employees with a copy of their policy upon hire and annually during sexual harassment prevention training.
The significant changes in the updated model policy include:
- Stating that, under New York law, sexual harassment not need be severe or pervasive to be illegal, and that illegal harassment can be any conduct that rises above petty slights or trivial inconveniences.
- Emphasizing that whether conduct constitutes illegal harassment is measured from the standpoint of a reasonable victim of discrimination with the same protected characteristics.
- Making clear that lack of intent to harass is not a defense by adding a provision stating that a person’s intent is irrelevant in determining whether their conduct constitutes sexual harassment.
- Identifying sexual harassment as a form of “gender-based” discrimination.
- Clarifying that employees working remotely can be subjected to harassment.
- Broadening the responsibilities of supervisors to provide that they must “accommodate the needs of individuals who have experienced harassment to ensure the workplace is safe, supportive, and free from retaliation for them during and after any investigation.”
- Adding a section about bystander intervention.
- Referencing New York State’s confidential hotline for workplace sexual harassment complaints and providing its toll-free telephone number in the Legal Protections and External Remedies section.
- Adding a new “Conclusion” section stating that although the model policy’s focus is on sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the New York Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination against other protected classes and that the model policy “should be considered applicable to all protected classes.”
New York employers should review their sexual harassment prevention policies and training materials to ensure they comply with the updated DOL standards.
A copy of the updated model policy and training materials can be obtained at the Sexual Harassment Prevention Model Policy and Training page at ny.gov.