On April 11 and 12, 2018, the landscape surrounding sexual harassment claims was rewritten by major amendments to applicable New York State and New York City law. Many of the measures mirror legislation that has been introduced in other states and cities as part of a nationwide push in response to the #MeToo movement and the subsequent increased dialogue around workplace sexual harassment. New York is at or near the forefront of this movement, and employers need to take action to remain compliant with their new legal obligations.
New York State
Embedded in the New York State budget, signed into law on April 12, 2018 by Governor Andrew Cuomo, are important amendments targeting sexual harassment that place affirmative obligations on New York employers, as outlined below. Although the amendments create a series of open questions, it is critical that employers become aware of the changes in general and take the necessary steps to come into compliance as soon as possible.
New York City
On April 11, 2018, New York City also passed legislation aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace called the "Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act" (NYC Act). The new law, which NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign in the coming days, imparts additional requirements upon New York City employers. NYC employers must be familiar with and abide by both laws.
The most significant portion of the NYC Act also mandates annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees. This training requirement applies to private employers of 15 or more employees in NYC and becomes effective as of April 1, 2019. Such training must be provided to all existing employees come next April, and to all new employees thereafter within 90 days of employment. Employees will be required to sign acknowledgement forms asserting they have received the annual training, copies of which the employer must preserve for three years in conjunction with records of the training provided.
Employers who are covered under both state and city laws must ensure their training procedures are compliant with each. To be clear, businesses with four or more employees must comply with the state training requirement, and those with 15 or more employees in NYC must provide training compliant with both laws.
Additional changes due to the NYC Act include:
It is imperative that employers respond to these amendments. Our Labor and Employment lawyers are available to assist you with staying on top of your notice requirements as well as updating your policies on harassment and discrimination, independent contractor or third-party contracts, arbitration agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and any other workplace policies and procedures affected by these new obligations. Our lawyers provide a wide array of risk management training programs to clients on topics including non-discrimination/sexual harassment, among other areas. We work closely with clients to tailor these training programs to your specific needs and to address significant developments in the law.