New York is leading the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace by requiring all employers to have written policy about sexual harassment and provide sexual harassment prevention training to all workers. These minimum standards are set by the state and the city of New York.
As of 2018, legislation was put in place to enforce the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace to seriously combat it. This step took place two years after the hashtag #MeToo went viral on Facebook in 2017. According to Facebook, nearly half of its American users were friends with someone who had experienced sexual assault or harassment after the hashtag went viral.
This article reviews New York State and New York City law and what they mean for employers.
New York State Law on Sexual Harassment Prevention
Under the law, every employer in New York State is required to establish a sexual harassment prevention policy. This includes private and public employers for exempt or non-exempt employees, part time workers, seasonal workers and temporary workers regardless of immigration status.
New York’s training laws apply to all employers regardless of size:
- Implement the State’s model sexual harassment prevention policy, or create their own sexual harassment prevention policy that meets or exceeds certain minimum standards
- Make a complaint form available for employees to report sexual harassment
- Conduct interactive sexual harassment prevention training annually, either using the state’s model training materials or another program that meets the training requirements
New York State Law on Sexual Harassment Policy Minimum Standards
The Department of Labor for the New York State issued guidance to limit sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers with employees in New York are required to provide all workers with a written policy that covers or exceeds the following:
- Provides examples of prohibited conduct
- Includes information concerning the federal and state statutory provision concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws
- Includes a complaint form
- Includes a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties
- Informs all workers on employee rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially
- Clearly states 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
- States that retaliation against individuals who complain, testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful
New York State Law on Annual Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Requirements
Employers are required to follow the standards of the model training developed by the State Department of Labor (DOL) and New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR), or must use a training program that meets or exceeds the minimum standards of the model training requirements.
As per the State Department of Labor and New York State Division of Human Rights, the state statutory provisions state that sexual harassment prevention training must include:
- An explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by New York State DOL in consultation with DHR
- Examples of unlawful sexual harassment
- Information concerning federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
- Information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints
- Information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisors
New York State requires employers to provide sexual harassment training that is interactive, meaning it requires some level of participation by those being trained. Employers have the flexibility to execute this training in a variety of ways including in-person or online, on an individual or group basis, but the opportunity for workers to interact and provide feedback must be present.
New York State requires that sexual harassment prevention training be delivered across a wide range of worksites while still maintaining the same curriculum. Harassment training requirements should be:
- Modified to reflect specific policies and practices of each employer and industry
- Detail internal processes
- Be given consistently across each organization’s workforce
- Be given in the language that is spoken by employees
New York State Sexual Harassment Training Frequency and Deadlines
All New York State employees were required to complete their first time training by Oct. 9, 2019. After that, all employees must complete sexual harassment prevention training annually (based on calendar year, start date or any other date the employer choses). All new employees must complete the training in a timely manner.
New York City Law on Sexual Harassment Prevention
Sexual harassment prevention training must be provided and administered annually to all New York City employers with 15 or more workers under Local Law 96 of 2018. There are two key distinctions in New York City law that differ from those in New York State. It's imperative to emphasize that employers are responsible for the conduct of consultants, suppliers, contractors, and subcontractors, and therefore should provide their policy and provide training to any workers working at their location.
New York City Sexual Harassment Prevention Threshold: 15+ Employee Minimum
While New York State law requires all businesses, no matter their size, to be compliant, New York City law targets employers with 15 or more employees. New York City employers with 15 or more employees in the previous calendar year count toward this threshold. That includes interns within New York City that worked more than 80 hours in the calendar year for at least 90 days, as well as independent contractors that have performed work in the furtherance of the business.
New York City Sexual Harassment Prevention Recordkeeping Requirement
Unlike the New York State sexual harassment training requirements, the New York City law requires that employers keep a record of all annual harassment trainings, including a signed employee acknowledgment for at least three years and the New York City Commission on Human Rights can access them at any time. An employee must provide a signed acknowledgement of training, either in writing or electronically.
All employees, including interns, within New York City working more than 80 hours in a calendar year and have worked for at least 90 days. Employers must also train independent contractors that have performed work in the furtherance of the business for more than 90 days and more than 80 hours in a calendar year, and have not already received the mandated annual training elsewhere. Interactive training is required annually.
New York City Law on Interactive Annual Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
Both New York City and New York State define interactive sexual harassment prevention training differently. NYC defines interactive education as "trainee involvement in trainer-student interaction," and it is worth noting that online courses may qualify. Employees may participate by answering questions at the end of each content section, taking a survey after they finish, receiving answers to queries in real-time as part of web-based training, or asking questions during in-person training.
When it comes to content requirements, the NYC Stop Sexual Harassment Law requires that the materials used include the following:
- A definition of sexual harassment, with examples
- A clear statement noting that sexual harassment is unlawful discrimination under federal, state and local law
- Internal processes by which workers can address and file sexual harassment complaints or claims through their employer, the New York StateDivision of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including contact information
- A clear statement covering the prohibition of retaliation, including examples
- Bystander intervention information, including all resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention
- Managerial and supervisory responsibility regarding sexual harassment prevention and retaliation information must be outlined covering the steps these employees must take to address complaints in an appropriate manner
New York City Employer Responsibilities to Prevent Sexual Harassment
To wrap up the differences between State and City laws, NYC employers with 15 or more employees are required to:
- Provide annual sexual harassment prevention training for all employees including contractors, freelancers and interns
- Training for new employees must be done within 90 days of their hire date
- Recordkeeping of all training, including signed acknowledgment from the worker who took the training must be kept for at least three years and should be available to City Commission for inspection
- A City Commission Stop Sexual Harassment Act Notice poster must be placed at worksites in communal areas in both English and Spanish, and must be at least 8.5 by 14 inches with a 12 point type minimum
- Provide a Stop Sexual Harassment Act Factsheet to all individual employees individually or in the employee handbook
- Provide a written sexual harassment policy in the worker's primary language
Sexual Harassment Training Courses
Vubiz offers a complete harassment training solution for employers in New York State and NYC that meets compliance as outlined by the Department of Labor:
The need to provide training on an annual basis can eat up a lot of internal resources. Online training is a great option for teams of all sizes needing to deploy training in minutes to ensure compliance and digitize recordkeeping. Online training courses are easy to customize to meet your company's policies and branding.