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NYS Releases Model Training and Policy Update

October 4, 2018

As we addressed in our previous article both New York State and New York City passed recent anti-sexual harassment legislation. This article addresses important upcoming deadlines under those laws.

Required New York State Anti-Harassment Policy Revisions by October 9, 2018

By October 9, 2018, all New York State employers must have updated sexual harassment policies. The New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) recently released a draft of a model policy. Although the NYSDHR released a draft model policy, the NYSDHR  requires that employer policies follow minimum standards. Accordingly, the policies must, at a minimum:

  1. prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  2. provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
  3. include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws;
  4. include a complaint form;
  5. include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties;
  6. inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially;
  7. clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue; and
  8. clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.

It is important for employers to craft a policy that meets these standards, while avoiding extraneous information that may detract from these key points and may confuse employees.

Required New York State Anti-Harassment Training by October 9, 2019

Under the New York State law, all employees must also receive anti-sexual harassment training by October 9, 2019. Like the model anti-harassment policy, the State also released a model training outline. Similar to the anti-harassment policy, employers are not required to adopt the model training. The training provided by employers must meet the following minimum standards:

  1. be interactive – “Interactive” requires 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;
  2. include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the NYSDHR;
  3. include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
  4. include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment;
  5. include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints; and
  6. include information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors.

Going forward, the State requires that anti-harassment training is provided annually and all new employees be trained “as soon as possible” after beginning employment.

Required New York City Anti-Harassment Training beginning April 1, 2019

The NYC Act also has training requirements. NYC employers with at least 15 employees are obligated to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training to all NYC employees, beginning April 1, 2019. New employees are required to be trained within the first 90 days of employment. Like the State, the NYCCHR is expected to release a model policy and training materials for compliance with the Act in the near future. We will keep you updated when those materials are released. It is currently unclear if and how they will be different from the State’s models and/or minimum standards.

New York City Poster and Fact Sheet by September 6, 2018

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (“NYCCHR”) has released the anti-sexual harassment rights notice poster and fact sheet referenced in the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act (the “Act”) (our previous coverage of the Act can be found here). Effective September 6, 2018, all NYC employers must display the poster, both in English and in Spanish, in a “conspicuous location” in the workplace. Also, effective  September 6, 2018, NYC employers must distribute the fact sheet to all new employees at the time of hire. The fact sheet may be distributed as a separate document or incorporated into the employee handbook.

Both the poster and the fact sheet explain what sexual harassment is, provide examples of sexual harassment, explain that retaliation is prohibited under NYC Human Rights Law, and provide contact information for reporting complaints of sexual harassment. The NYCCHR has also created a webpage which provides additional information on the Act.

How We Can Help Meet Your Legal Obligations

As attorneys with combined experience of over 47 years practicing employment law, we can assist you in complying with the standards mandated by the State, and those to be released by the City. We craft state-of-the-art, non-legalese policies that employees can relate to and understand, all while maintaining legal compliance. In addition, as attorneys, we can provide the legally-mandated training in a cost-effective way, in which we:

  1. properly customize the training and get ahead of any legal issues that may be unique to your organization;
  2. ensure the presentation legally complies with the new anti-harassment laws and requirements;
  3. give “weight” to the presentation, as staff members tend to take the training more seriously knowing an attorney is conducting it;
  4. answer any legal questions that arise during the training; and
  5. provide management with a summary of any potential issues that are revealed in the training.

We know adhering to these new requirements can be intimidating. Please reach out to us to help you maintain your compliance.

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