NYS Sexual Harassment Prevention Law…What You Need to Know

The 2018-19 state budget included new provisions to prevent sexual harassment. The law establishes protections from sexual harassment for employees, individuals working as contractors and others, such as visitors to your business – including your patrons. It imposes obligations on state officials, employers and government contractors. All employers are barred from using mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements related to sexual harassment, they’re required to adopt sexual harassment prevention policies and must train all of their employees in sexual harassment prevention practices annually.

Under the new law employers are prohibited from using mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual harassment complaints in employment contracts. Employers are also barred from using nondisclosure agreements in settlements, except when requested by the victim. These provisions of the law took effect in July, ninety days after becoming law.

All employers are required to establish a sexual harassment prevention policy under the new law. The policy must meet the minimum standards established by Department of Labor. The Department has prepared a draft of the standards and will be finalized soon once they assess public comments on the draft. The Department will also prepare a sample policy that employers can use as is (after inserting their information). Employers must provide a copy of their policy in writing to all of their employees. While there’s no requirement to get a signed acknowledgment from your employees that they received their copy of the policy, it’s a good idea. The requirement to have a sexual harassment prevention policy in place that meets the state’s minimum standards takes effect October 9th.

The law also requires that employers establish a sexual harassment prevention training program and provide training to all their employees annually. The training must meet the minimum standards established by Department of Labor. The initial guidance from the Department called for all current employees to be trained by January 1st. We expect the final guidance will push back the deadline, although we can’t predict how long a delay will be granted. We’ll know the deadline as soon as the Department of Labor finalizes their guidance and standards. That will also inform us what components employers should look for when selecting a training program. The Department has prepared sample trainings, scripts and other resources based on the draft requirements which they’ll update once the requirements are finalized. As with the sample policy they’re developing, you’ll be able to use these sample trainings for your business. You can access this information at www.ny.gov/programs/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace.