The #MeToo movement not only highlighted the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace but also revealed weaknesses in the laws designed to prevent it. This year, New York City employers should be aware of changes at both the state and city levels. The state updated its Human Rights Law in April, and the city passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act in May.
New York employers are or will soon be required to take several actions under the new laws:
Non-employees now protected
New York’s Human Rights Law now protects non-employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. In the past, independent contractors, consultants, vendors, and others providing contracted services have sometimes been denied the protection of anti-sexual harassment laws. Now, employers (including supervisors and agents) can be held liable if they knew or should have known about instances of sexual harassment against these non-employees if the employers failed to take immediate, appropriate corrective action.
Employment contracts and settlements
Most new employment contracts can no longer mandate individual arbitration of sexual harassment claims.
Also, nondisclosure clauses are no longer permitted in sexual harassment settlement agreements unless they are included at the employee’s request. Employees have 21 days to consider such settlements and then seven days to change their minds and revoke the agreement after signing.
New training and certification requirements
Earlier this month, the law required employers to post and distribute new sexual harassment posters and fact sheets designed by the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
By Oct. 9, every employer in New York state must develop and distribute a written anti-sexual harassment policy and provide annual anti-sexual harassment training to their employees. The New York State Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights have created a model policy and training, but employers are allowed to develop their own as long as they meet or exceed the state’s minimum standards.
Beginning in January 2019, all New York state contractors must submit an affirmation that they have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place and have trained all of their employees on the policy.
Starting on April 1, 2019, New York City employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide an interactive (not necessarily live) training to all employees, including part-time workers and interns. This training must be performed annually and provided to new employees within 90 days. The New York City Commission on Human Rights is creating a free, interactive training module that employers can use. Employers can also create their own training, as long as it complies with or exceeds the minimum standards set by the Commission.
To ensure you fully understand your obligations under these laws, contact an experienced employment law attorney.
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