Q: I am a New York employer. How do the upcoming New York State and New York City sexual harassment requirements affect me? When is the deadline to comply?
A: New York State and New York City have new sexual harassment policy and training requirements for employers. The New York State requirements go into effect on October 9, 2018 (policy must be adopted by October 9, 2018 and training must be completed by January 1, 2019). The New York City requirements (training only) go into effect April 1, 2019. The New York State requirements apply to all employers, and the New York City requirements apply to employers with 15 or more employees in New York City.
The City and State training requirements are similar, so employers that do not yet meet the City threshold of 15 employees should consider complying with the City requirements regardless. That way, should the employer reach the 15 employee threshold, it will already be in compliance.
New York State requires that all employers implement a written anti-harassment policy by October 9, 2018. Employees should sign acknowledgments, and employers should keep the acknowledgments on file for at least three years. The policy must have a number of elements:
- State that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow sexual harassment to continue;
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct;
- Include information about the federal and state statutory sexual harassment provisions and remedies applicable to victims of sexual harassment, as well as a statement that there may be applicable local laws;
- Include a standard complaint form;
- Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties;
- Inform employees of their rights of redress and administrative and judicial forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints; and
- State that retaliation against individuals who complain about sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any proceeding under the law is unlawful.In addition to the above policy requirements, the laws also require annual sexual harassment training. New York State requires that all employees must be trained by January 1, 2019. New York City requires that all employees be trained by April 1, 2020 (one year from the effective date of the law). Employers with employees in New York City must comply with both laws, and thus must complete training by January 1, 2019. The training must be interactive and include:
- An explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment;
- Examples of conduct that constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
- Information about federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and available remedies;
- Information about rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints;
- Information about supervisor/managerial conduct and additional responsibilities;
- Information about internal and external complaint processes; and
- Information about bystander intervention (New York City specific).Both the City and State require annual training. New employees must complete sexual harassment training within 30 days of beginning work. The training must be interactive, which means the program should include questions for employees and allow employees to ask questions. While a live trainer is the most effective form of training, training can be web-based, so long as it is sufficiently interactive.To prepare for the new requirements, employers should update (or create) compliant sexual harassment policies, and get written acknowledgments of the policy from every employee, and also prepare to meet the requirements for sexual harassment training. New York State has released a model policy and training materials. However, they are still open to public comment until September 12, and may be subject to change. Employers who would like assistance with policy or training compliance or who have additional questions should contact counsel.