On April 12, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York state budget into law. Beyond the dollars and cents associated with a typical budget bill, the legislation included new requirements for private and public employers to address sexual harassment in the workplace. While effective dates for the various measures are staggered over the next year, employers should start preparing now to comply with each provision:
- Effective immediately: The budget bill amended the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit harassment against “non-employees” who provide services under a contract, including contractors, vendors, and consultants. If an employer knew or should have known that a protected “non-employee” was sexually harassed at its office or workplace, the employer may be liable if it does not take appropriate action.
- Effective July 9, 2018: Employers may include nondisclosure/confidentiality clauses in settlement or release agreements dealing with sexual harassment claims only if the complaining party requests such a clause. Additionally, settlement and release agreements must not contain mandatory arbitration clauses for the resolution of harassment claims.
- Effective October 9, 2018: All employers must have a written anti-sexual harassment prevention policy, and also must provide annual anti-harassment training. The New York State Department of Labor (NYDOL) and the New York Division of Human Rights are drafting model policies, and employers must base their own policies and trainings on the state-drafted models. Employers must also provide a written copy of the policy to all employees annually.
Employers should act quickly to ensure they comply with the contractor and “non-employee” protections that take effect immediately. For example, employers should review existing policies to ensure that they provide the required protection to non-employee service providers. Employers should also review their forms of settlement and release agreements to ensure compliance with New York’s new restrictions. Finally, when NYDOL and Division of Human Rights publish their model policies and training materials, employers—even those with existing policies and trainings—must ensure they meet the minimum requirements set by those agencies.