Executive Summary: On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed a package of bills intended to prevent sexual harassment. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bills into law. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) is charged with enforcing the new laws.
The New York State Legislature also recently passed its own measures aimed at preventing sexual harassment. New York City employers must therefore comply with two new sets of sexual harassment laws. FordHarrison has issued a separate legal alert regarding the New York State laws, available here.
Highlights of New Laws for Private Employers:
Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws Applied to All NYC Employers
New York City laws on discrimination currently only apply to employers with four or more employees. This new law makes all employers, regardless of number of employees, subject to New York City law prohibiting gender-based harassment.
Anti-Sexual Harassment Required Poster and Employee Handout
The NYCCHR will soon develop a poster explaining rights and responsibilities related to sexual harassment that must be “conspicuously” displayed by all employers in employee breakrooms or other common areas. The poster will contain an explanation that sexual harassment is discrimination under New York City law; examples of sexual harassment; a description of the NYCHHR’s complaint process; a description of state and federal agencies and resources for filing sexual harassment complaints; an explanation and examples of retaliation; and information regarding bystander intervention. Employers must also give a handout containing the same information to new employees at the time of hire, which will also be developed by the NYCCHR.
Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training
All employers with 15 or more employees are required to conduct annual sexual harassment training for all employees, including interns and management. The training must contain the same information in the handout and poster, with additional information regarding management employees’ specific responsibilities. The training must be “interactive,” but need not be conducted in a live session. It may be done online, and the NYCCHR will develop an “online interactive training module.” Employers must keep a record of all trainings, including signed employee acknowledgements, for at least three years. This training requirement is similar, but not identical, to the training mandated by recent New York State law.
Extension of Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment Claims
The New York City Council amended the New York City Human Rights Law to allow three years to file a claim of sexual harassment with the NYCCHR. Previously, claimants had only one year. This change brings the limitations period for claims before the NYCCHR into parity with the deadline for filing a claim in court.
Employers' Bottom Line:
The new laws regarding sexual harassment will require changes and updates to employers’ existing policies, procedures and practices. Penalties for noncompliance, both from a legal and public relations standpoint, could be severe. Employers should review their current practices to make necessary revisions to comply with the new law.