Sexual harassment is a serious issue. Given the media attention this issue has received lately, and the emergence of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, it seems like people are finally sitting up and taking notice.
New York City has taken notice, too. On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, comprised of 11 separate bills intended to protect both public and private employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
Update: The bill was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on May 9, 2018.
"Time is indeed up for those who would use their power, wealth and influence to subject others to mistreatment and sexual harassment.”
"Time is indeed up for those who would use their power, wealth and influence to subject others to mistreatment and sexual harassment,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus. “The changes we are making to New York's laws and employment policies will continue the mission of breaking the culture of intimidation and empowering all individuals to reclaim the respect they deserve."
In addition, New York state also passed several measures aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace on a statewide level. As an employer in New York City, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the state and city requirements, and where they may overlap, ensure you’re meeting the requirements of both laws.
The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act
The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act is made up of several bills that all have the goal of ending sexual harassment in the workplace. Some key aspects of this bill for employers to note are the mandated yearly anti-harassment training, notice requirements, and the expanded anti-discrimination protections under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).
How do you prevent sexual harassment in the workplace?
Mandatory Anti-Harassment Training
The new City law requires private employers with 15 or more employees (including interns) to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees employed in New York City, including supervisors and managers. The training must cover a number of topics, including:
- Explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under city, state, and federal law
- Descriptions and examples of sexual harassment
- Explanation of the complaint process — both internally and through the New York City Commission on Human Rights, New York State Division of Human Rights, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- The prohibition of retaliation
- The importance of bystander intervention
Employers may use computer or online training programs to satisfy the requirements of this provision. New employees (including interns) expected to work more than eighty hours per calendar year must complete such training within ninety days of hire. The legislation also requires that employers keep a record of all trainings and signed employee acknowledgements of attendance.
This provision is set to take effect on April 1, 2019.
Related article: A Starter Guide to Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The legislation will require employers to display an anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities poster in the workplace, and to distribute an information sheet on sexual harassment to new employees. Both the poster and information sheet will be developed by the New York City Commission on Human Rights and will need to include similar information to the training.
This provision will be effective 120 days after it becomes law, which falls on September 6, 2018.
Expanded Anti-Discrimination Protections
Previously, employers with fewer than four employees were not covered by the anti-discrimination provisions of the NYCHRL. However, the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act expands coverage of sexual and gender-based harassment claims under the NYCHRL to all New York City employees, regardless of the employer’s size. This went into effect immediately upon passage of the bill on May 9, 2018.
What to do Now
Now that the Stop Sexual Harassment Act in NYC is law, it’s time for employers to prepare for increasingly strict laws around sexual harassment. Note the dates listed above for guidance around when you'll be required to display posters and provide training.
It's also a good idea to begin reviewing your own internal policies, and if necessary, update them to align with the new laws. It’s always receommended that you consult with counsel for help in this area.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.