New York State and City Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation Impose Significant New Obligations on Employers
Recently, both the New York City Council and the New York State Assembly passed significant legislation to address the issue of workplace sexual harassment. Specifically, on April 12, 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Budget Bill (“Budget Bill”), which included an omnibus anti-sexual harassment legislative package. Similarly, on April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” (“NYC Act”), which is a package of bills that imposes new requirements for employers aimed at combating sexual harassment. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed this bill into law on May 9, 2018.
What follows is a brief overview of the noteworthy provisions from these two legislative packages that will have a significant impact on employers in both New York City and New York State.
Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act
- As of April 1, 2019, the NYC Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for their employees. However, it is important to note the NYS requirement of annual anti-harassment training referred to below that covers all employers. The training must be interactive (i.e., participatory) and cover a variety of topics. All existing employees, including supervisory and managerial employees, must be trained. Such training shall be required after 90 days of initial hire for all employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year, regardless of whether they are full time or part time. Employers will be required to have employees sign an acknowledgement, which may be electronic, that they received training and must maintain copies of these records for at least three years.
- Effective immediately upon the law being signed, the NYC Act
- expands the definition of “employer” for the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) to cover employers with less than four employees with respect to gender based harassment claims; and
- increases the time that aggrieved individuals have to file a complaint of gender based harassment with the NYC Commission on Human Rights from one year to three years.
- Employers are now also required to display an anti-sexual harassment poster containing employees’ rights and employers’ responsibilities, in both English and Spanish, by September 6, 2018.
NY State Budget Bill
- Effective immediately, the Budget Bill expands protections against workplace sexual harassment under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) to “non-employees,” including contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, and anyone else providing services pursuant to a contract.
- As of July 11, 2018, employers will be prohibited from using nondisclosure clauses in settlements or agreements relating to claims of sexual harassment, unless the complainant expresses a preference for confidentiality, and from enforcing mandatory arbitration clauses when dealing with claims of workplace sexual harassment.
- Starting on October 9, 2018, the Budget Bill requires employers to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for their employees as well as to distribute anti-harassment policies in the workplace. The training obligation under the Budget Bill will apply to all New York employers regardless of the number of employees.
- Starting on January 1, 2019, employers that submit bids for state contracts will be required to include language in their bid affirming that they have implemented a written anti-harassment policy and that they provide annual anti-sexual harassment training.
While the long term implications and impact of these substantial legislative changes may still be uncertain, it is important that employers become familiar with these changes and begin taking the steps necessary in order to comply with these new obligations in advance of the statutory deadlines. For employees in New York City, the Budget Bill rules will apply in addition to the rules imposed by the NYC Act.
**This article has been updated as of May 21, 2018, to reflect the signing of the NYC Act by Mayor Bill de Blasio and clarify the coverage of the training obligation for employers under the Budget Bill, inter alia.**
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