Legal Alert

Significant Changes in Store for New York Employers When It Comes to Sexual Harassment

May 17, 2018

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the "Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act" into law last week. The Act brings sweeping changes that affect all New York City employers. These are among the most notable:

  • Effective immediately, sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

  • Effective immediately, the NYCHRL covers all employers, regardless of the number of employees, with respect to claims of sexual harassment.

  • Effective immediately, the statute of limitations for filing a gender-based harassment claim with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) is increased from one year to three years.

  • Starting September 6, 2018, all employers must display a new anti-sexual harassment poster, as designed by the NYCCHR, which defines sexual harassment and how to report it. As of today, that poster is not yet available.

Additionally, starting April 1, 2019, all private employers with 15 or more employees must conduct mandatory annual sexual harassment training. Training requirements are quite specific and somewhat similar to California's state law requirements. Notably, the trainings must explain what sexual harassment is by using examples, and explain the process for both internal complaints and for filing complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers must keep records verifying that training was completed, including signed employee acknowledgement, for three years.

The amendments to the NYCHRL make it one of the furthest-reaching anti-sexual harassment laws in the country, and come in the wake of the #MeToo movement and significant amendments to the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) designed to address sexual harassment. The NYSHRL amendments, which affect all employers in New York state, include:

  • a prohibition on confidential settlement agreements in sexual harassment claims, unless confidentiality is requested by the alleged victim;

  • newly created employer liability for independent contractors and certain other non-employees for sexual harassment when the employer, its agents, or supervisors were aware of the harassment of the non-employee and failed to take "immediate and appropriate corrective action."

  • a prohibition on employers requiring employees to enter into mandatory arbitration agreements for sexual harassment claims, except where federal law permits employers to require arbitration; and

  • a requirement that employers have a sexual harassment prevention policy and mandatory annual training program. The bill requires the state Department of Labor, in collaboration with the Division of Human Rights, to promulgate a model sexual harassment prevention policy and training program for employers. Employers will be required to either adopt the model policy and training program or a policy and program that meet or exceed minimum standards set forth in the legislation and the policy and program developed by the state.

Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group has experience developing harassment policies, implementing complaint procedures, conducting trainings for management and other employees, and designing preventive practices that comply with state and federal law.

Copyright © 2018 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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