Combatting Sexual Harassment in New York State

In April of this year, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law as a part of the 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity. This law focuses on combating harassment in the workplace. Previously, it was only recommended that employers provide training against sexual harassment. Now it is required.

Beginning October 9th of this year all employers in the state were required to have a written policy on sexual harassment prevention, a form available to those needing to file a com- plaint and post a sexual harassment prevention poster. The state did release models for all of these requirements, so don’t panic! It is advised you customize these templates to fit your business and how you operate. If you’re unsure on how to implement these provisions, you should seek legal counsel.

The new law extends protection to non-employees in the workplace, such as vendors and contractors. Employers are required to investigate if there is a complaint against a vendor or contractor in their workplace and take action if appropriate.

The biggest piece employers may be concerned about is the mandatory training requirement. Originally, the state had requested training be completed by December 31, 2018. When the final guidance was released October 1, the deadline for training was pushed to October 2019 to give employers additional time to com- ply. The state has also changed the new hire training requirement. Although 30 days was originally suggested, final guidance states “as soon as possible.” Ideally, these employees should be trained sooner rather than later.

There are also strict stipulations on the training itself. It has to be interactive and include a list of specific points per New York State. To help with this, the state has released model presentations and hopes to make a video available to employers. If an employer is not comfortable providing this training on their own, they may seek assistance from an out- side source.

Under this law, employers can no longer require non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases but the complainant can request one. As of July 11, 2018 mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts are now null and void and new contracts going forward cannot include this stipulation.