By October 9, 2018, New York employers will be required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy and provide training for their companies. New York State and New York City have adopted new laws in hopes of combatting sexual harassment in the work place by requiring companies to have a zero-tolerance policy for all types of sexual harassment. The policy must be permanently posted in the workplace and be provided to all new employees.
The NYS Department of Labor has prepared a template for employers to use, which applies to all their employees, potential employees and applicants, interns (regardless as to whether they are paid), contractors and other individuals who conduct business with the company. The policy defines sexual harassment as unlawful sex discrimination, which includes “harassment on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and the status of being transgender.” The policy continues to explain that:
“Sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct which is either of a sexual nature, or which is directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex when:
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, even if the complaining individual is not the intended target of the sexual harassment;
- Such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting an individual’s employment.”
The policy not only condemns those who commit sexual harassment, but also to managers and supervisors who “knowingly allow such behavior to continue”. Managers and supervisors are required to report any complaints or incidents they observe themselves. Each complaint must be investigated in a timely manner (within 30 days) and kept confidential. The scope of the policy expands outside of the workplace and covers incidents during business travel, employer sponsored events, all types of communications (including social media) even if the communications are after working hours.
The Human Rights Law, which is codified as N.Y. Executive Law, Article 15, § 290 protects employees or those affiliated with the company from sexual harassment. If an individual does experience sexual harassment they may file a complaint for a violation of human rights law with the Department of Human Rights (within one year from the incident) or with the New York State Supreme Court (within three years).
In addition to employers implementing the new sexual harassment policy, New York State requires employers to provide training to employees to ensure all employees understand the meaning of sexual harassment and know how to report such incidents. Employee training must be conducted annually, however, the law has not carved out a specific time frame for the first round to be completed by. The Department of Labor has issued that employers should complete the training by the end of 2018. On the other hand, New York City is implementing its own interactive sexual harassment prevention training requirement, which is similar to the State law, but will also require employers to keep records of the training sessions and gather signatures of all the attendees.
New York City has provided a fact sheet available here for employers.
 New York State. “Sexual Harassment Policy for All Employers in New York State.” New York State. Available at: https://www.ny.gov/sites/ny.gov/files/atoms/files/StatewideSexualHarassment_PreventionPolicy.pdf. Accessed on Sept. 27, 2018.
 Id. p.2.