Effective April 1, 2019, companies with 15 or more employees will be subject to mandatory annual training requirements for employees in New York City. Part of the growing national trend to combat sexual misconduct in the workplace on the heels of the "#MeToo" movement, the New York City Council has mandated that all employees who work 80 or more hours in a calendar year (including part-time employees and interns) participate in "interactive training" within 90 days of hire and on an annual basis thereafter. Employees who have received training at a prior employer within the required time cycle are not required to be retrained until the next cycle.
Under the new law, which awaits the mayor's signature, "interactive" means "participatory teaching whereby the trainee is engaged in a trainer-trainee interaction, use of audio-visuals, computer or online training program or other participatory forms of training." However, such "interactive training" need not be live or facilitated by an inperson instructor. The training must include the following elements, at a minimum:
1. An explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under local law;
2. A statement that sexual harassment is also a form of unlawful discrimination under state and federal law;
3. A description of what constitutes sexual harassment, using examples;
4. Any internal complaint process available to employees through their employer to address sexual harassment claims;
5. The complaint process available through governmental agencies, including contact information;
6. The prohibition of retaliation, and examples thereof;
7. Information concerning bystander intervention, including but not limited to any resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention; and
8. The specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees in the prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation, and measures that such employees may take to appropriately address sexual harassment complaints.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights will establish an online training module that employers can utilize to comply with the new law, which will be available to the public at no cost. Employers must supplement this training module to incorporate their own internal complaint process. Employers also must keep a record of the training and acknowledgments from trainees (which may be electronic) for three years following the training, and make those records available for inspection upon request.
New York City joins California, Connecticut and Maine in requiring some form of mandatory anti-harassment training for private employers. In light of the current political climate and "#MeToo" movement, other jurisdictions are likely to follow suit. Thus, it is an opportune time for employers to revisit training and policies related to harassment and discrimination. Considering the rapidly changing legal landscape, we recommend that such review be undertaken in conjunction with legal counsel familiar with employment laws.