Executive Summary: Earlier this year, in response to the #MeToo movement, New York State passed several new laws aimed at expanding employee awareness of sexual harassment. (FordHarrison previously reported the updates to the State law in our April 27, 2018 Legal Alert). Among the new requirements placed on employers is mandatory annual anti-sexual harassment training and an anti-sexual harassment policy, which must be implemented by October 9, 2018. As the summer draws to a close, the State has issued a draft model policy, draft model training, and minimum standards for the creation of an employer’s own policy and training, if they choose not to adopt the models. A public comment period runs through September 12, 2018.
New York State’s Draft Models: The annual training requirement applies to all employers with even a single employee who works in the State. Although New York State has developed suggested training that may be used, employers may instead create their own training, provided it meets or exceeds the State’s minimum requirements. The draft model training is available here: https://www.ny.gov/sites/ny.gov/files/atoms/files/StandardsSexualHarassmentPreventionTraining.pdf. The training must be interactive, including “some form of employee participation, meaning the training may: be web-based with questions asked of employees as part of the program; accommodate questions asked by employees; include a live trainer made available during the session to answer questions; and/or require feedback from employees about the training and the materials presented.” In addition, the training should be provided in the language that is spoken by the employees. All current employees must have completed the training by January 1, 2019, even those who only work for a short duration within the State. Those hired on or after January 1, 2019, must complete the training within 30 days of hire. The State has also promulgated a model complaint form to be used by employees. A new dedicated webpage with additional resources is available here: https://www.ny.gov/programs/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace.
The State’s draft model policy, including definitions and examples, and covering retaliation, resources, reporting and investigation procedures, is available here: https://www.ny.gov/sites/ny.gov/files/atoms/files/StatewideSexualHarassment_PreventionPolicy.pdf. If employers choose to modify or implement their own policies, they should ensure that such policies include at least as much information as contained in the State’s model.
We will continue to report on further developments and legislation on these issues.
Employers’ Bottom Line: Employers with any employees working in New York State are encouraged to review the draft guidance and model training and to submit any comments they may have on or before September 12, 2018, directly through the State website: https://www.ny.gov/content/sexual-harassment-prevention-policies. Employers are advised to review their existing anti-sexual harassment policies to ensure compliance with the State’s mandatory minimum standards, and to ensure that they have adequate training in place for implementation by October 9.