New York Strengthens Sexual Harassment Protections

By Billy Sahachartsiri, Summer Associate Legal Perspectives July 10, 2018

In the wake of national attention to the #MeToo movement and discourse over ways to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, New York State and New York City have each recently enacted new legislation to better protect employees from such harassment.  If you are a private employer in the state of New York, you should be aware of these new requirements (summarized below), since they will undoubtedly impact your businesses.  New York City employers are also subject to additional requirements mandated by city law (also summarized below).  Some of these requirements have already taken effect and others will take effect over the coming year:

New York State’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation

  • Employers may now be liable to certain non-employees—such as contractors, vendors, and consultants—for sexual harassment claims, if the employer should have known that the non-employee was subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
  • Employers, aside from union employers, may not enter into contracts containing provisions requiring mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment cases. (It remains to be seen whether this general prohibition on mandatory arbitration in such cases is pre-empted by the Federal Arbitration Act.)
  • Unless the employee requests otherwise, employers who settle sexual harassment claims may no longer include nondisclosure clauses in their settlement agreements.
  • Employers must adopt New York’s model sexual harassment prevention policy or develop/revise their own policy to equal or exceed that model’s standards. The policy must include certain items (e.g., a standard complaint form, a procedure for the timely filing of complaints, and examples of prohibited conduct) and be provided to all employees in writing.
  • Employers must develop an interactive training program that includes an explanation of sexual harassment that complies with guidance from the state, examples of conduct qualifying as “sexual harassment,” information on federal and state statutory provisions related to sexual harassment and remedies available to victims, and information concerning employees’ rights of redress and available forums for adjudicating complaints.

New York City’s “Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act”

  • The Act now expands sexual harassment liability to all employers in New York City, regardless of the employer’s size. Prior to this change, sexual harassment generally applied only to employers with 4 or more employees.
  • New York City employees now have three years—as opposed to just one year—to file a sexual harassment claim under the New York City Human Rights Law.
  • New York City employers must visibly display anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities posters, developed by the city, in employee common areas. Additionally, employers must distribute a city-developed sexual harassment information sheet to new employees at their time of hiring.
  • New York City employers with 15 or more employees must conduct annual, interactive anti-sexual harassment training for all employees who are employed within New York City, including supervisory and managerial employees. An online interactive training module provided by the city may be used.

Given that these requirements will soon be taking effect, to the extent that they have not already done so, New York State and New York City employers should take the time to review and revise their policies and procedures to ensure they are in full compliance with the new legislation.

If you’d like to ensure that your company’s sexual harassment policy complies with this newly enacted legislation, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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