New York City May Soon Require Employers To Conduct Sexual Harassment Training: Are You Ready?

Not many places in the US require sexual harassment training by private employers but New York City may soon become one of them.  (See, e.g., Maine and California).

According to the New York Times, the City Council is likely to pass the “Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act” which would mandate such training for the more than 30,000 city businesses which have more than 15 employees, as the bill specifies.

As the Times reported, not everyone supports this bill.

Kathryn Wylde, the president of a business group called the Partnership for New York City, said that “Thanks to the #MeToo movement, any employer who is not asleep understands the importance of strong policies on sexual harassment and relevant training. What more city laws are going to accomplish, aside from legal and compliance headaches, is unclear.”

She is right, of course, about the importance of having policies and conducting training — but it is very shortsighted to think that employers either understand this or actually implement it.

Employers Don’t Always “Get It”

From our experience she is dead wrong about employers understanding the importance of “sexual harassment and relevant training.”  My partner Amy Epstein Gluck and I have been preaching (and teaching!) for years that employers must have strong policies in place and must … train, train, train!!  And yet the #MeToo movement has apparently exposed that our words have fallen on deaf ears for too many employers.

This NYC bill, if passed, may open the eyes of the employers who have been asleep – and benefit them, as well as the potential victims.


Train, Train, and … Train Some More!

Just by way of example, Amy wrote that employers must “Provide regular, interactive training so that employees can recognize, respond to, and prevent unlawful harassment (based on sex, race, age, etc.).”  She noted further that employers must:

Have a clear, no-tolerance sexual harassment policy in your employee handbook; ensure it is disseminated throughout your company and understood by all of your employees. In that same handbook, provide a written procedure for reporting and investigating claims of unlawful harassment and follow it, documenting the process along the way. Have clear standards for what merits what kind of discipline.

I wrote that “We blog, loudly and often, that employers must require such training for both managers and employees.”  And we’ve written that “Employers should understand that, from the top down, an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment tone and policy must be set, and all management personnel as well as line workers must be trained and educated in the basics of discrimination and harassment law and compliance and its application in the workplace.”


We’ve provided this training to employers for many years and believe that we’ve saved them many tens of millions of dollars (and saved employees a lot of grief and trauma).

Train your employees!

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]