New York Sexual Harassment Prevention Measures Mean Business

Hey New York employers! It’s been a minute since we’ve discussed the extensive sexual harassment prevention measures that New York State has implemented. I have updates.

Earlier this year, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law an amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law requiring that the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) establish a confidential statewide toll-free hotline to provide free advice to employees about workplace sexual harassment issues.

That law is now in effect, and the toll-free hotline is LIVE. It is 1-800-HARASS-3 (1-800-427-2773).

Who Is Providing Advice To Employees Who Call This Hotline?

Yep, the answer is lawyers. Pro bono lawyers, in fact.

New York employers, your employees are getting free advice from real live attorneys well-versed in New York’s employee-protective sexual harassment laws.

What Else?

New York State also increased anti-retaliation protections for victims of discrimination.

How?

Now, if an employee engages in protected activity and their employer then discloses the employee’s personnel file or records in an attempt to discredit or disparage the employee, THAT’S retaliation. Employers should update their handbooks to include this definition of retaliation.

Additionally, the amendment specified, in no uncertain terms, that all public employers are subject to the Human Rights Law. This was a loophole in the NYSHRL, and the law specifically includes elected officials and their staff as well as judges.

Finally, the law also directs the DHR to work with the New York State Department of Labor to ensure that information about the hotline is included in any materials employers must post or provide to employees regarding sexual harassment.

What Else Do New York State Employers Need To Do To Comply With Anti-Harassment Laws?

First, employers must provide the company’s sexual harassment prevention policy to employees and post this required notice.

The policy must, at a minimum:

  • state that the company prohibits sexual harassment (consistent with DHR guidance);
  • provide specific examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
  • clearly state that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that discipline will be imposed against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and any supervisors who knowingly allow the behavior to continue;
  • clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain about sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful;
  • advise employees of federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies for victims, and a statement that local laws (e.g., New York City) may apply;
  • include a complaint form that employees can fill out and provide to their employer alleging sexual harassment;
  • explain the company’s procedure for a prompt and thorough investigation of complaints;
  • inform employees of their rights and all available forums for handling sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially.

Second, all employees must take state-approved anti-harassment training OR the state’s training. The idea of training, or, as I like to call it “education,” is to foster a safe workplace culture. By educating employees, training employees, including supervisors, understand what sexual harassment so they are aware of when it occurs.

The DHR’s website fully explains these requirements and even provides a model complaint form and model training to assist employers.

Final Note

About the new hotline, Governor Hochul said this:

Every worker deserves access to resources to protect themselves from sexual harassment[.] New York State has taken action to make the workplace safer, more respectful, and more collaborative, and we will never stop working to support survivors and eliminate the scourge of sexual harassment.

https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-launch-statewide-workplace-sexual-harassment-hotline

Employers, ensure you and your HR departments are on board with these new, and the pre-existing, state sexual harassment prevention requirements.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.