New York Releases Final Training and Policy Models Related to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”), in consultation with the New York State Division of Human Rights (“SDHR”), has released the final version of its guidance relating to New York State’s anti-sexual harassment laws. See New York State’s website, Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

As New York State has now finalized the guidance and related requirements, employers will need to adopt and use the New York State model policy and training program, or develop and use their own policy and training materials, which equal or exceed the minimum standards established by the DOL and SDHR.

Key Points

Employers must implement new anti-sexual harassment policies by October 9, 2018. Notably, the final model anti-sexual harassment policy now provides, among other things, that:

  • The policy “applies to all employees, applicants for employment, interns, whether paid or unpaid, contractors and persons conducting business, regardless of immigration status, with” the employer;
  • Although the policy “specifically addresses sexual harassment, harassment because of and discrimination against persons of all protected classes is prohibited,” including harassment and/or discrimination based on “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, marital status, domestic violence victim status, gender identity and criminal history”;
  • In addition to reporting “any complaint that they receive, or any harassment that they observe,” managers and supervisors must report any harassment that they “become aware of”;
  • An investigation will be “commenced immediately and completed as soon as possible” after a complaint; and
  • The policy “must be provided to all employees and should be posted prominently in all work locations to the extent practicable (for example, in a main office, not an offsite work location) and be provided to employees upon hiring.”

In addition, according to the final guidance:

  • Only those employees “who work or will work in New York State” must be trained. That said, employers must train employees who “work[ ] a portion of their time in New York State, even if they’re based in another state”;
  • All existing employees must complete the model training or a comparable training that meets the minimum standards by October 9, 2019. This may be the most important change, as the draft guidance initially indicated that such training must be completed by January 1, 2019; and
  • All new employees should complete sexual harassment prevention training as quickly as possible.

What Should Employers Do Now?

New York employers should work with experienced counsel to review their sexual harassment policies and training programs to ensure that they meet the minimum standards set forth in the final guidance.