For New York employers, the spotlight on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace has resulted in new legislation and requirements for organizations of all sizes, including mandatory sexual harassment training. As the deadlines loom, there are still plenty of employers who are not aware of the new sexual harassment laws in New York State and New York City, according to Crain’s New York Business. And among employers who do know about the new laws, some are uncertain about the requirements and how to comply with them.
A lack of awareness or confusion about New York’s new anti-harassment training requirements can increase the risk of costly harassment claims and violations and undermine an organization’s efforts to create a safe, inclusive workplace culture.
To help NY organizations meet the new training requirements and deadlines, here’s a recap:
New York State
All NY employers are required to provide all employees with sexual harassment prevention training annually. New employees should participate in sexual harassment prevention training as soon as possible after their start date. NY State also recommends that employers provide employees with training in the language spoken by their employees.
Mark Your Calendars: By October 9, 2019, all NY employees must complete sexual harassment prevention training.
Under NY State law, employers must train all workers, regardless of immigration status, including part-time and temporary workers, seasonal workers and exempt and nonexempt employees.
The training must:
- Be interactive and require some level of employee participation
- Explain what sexual harassment is, consistent with guidance from the New York Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights
- Include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment
- Include information on state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to targets of sexual harassment
- Include information addressing conduct by supervisors and the additional responsibilities of managers and supervisors
- Include information about employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints
Training must be interactive
Whether the training is web-based or conducted in-person, it must meet NY State’s minimum requirement for interactivity. Web-based training must incorporate interactive elements such as asking questions at the end of a section that require employees to select the right answer or offering an option for employees to submit a question online, with the expectation of receiving a prompt response.
To satisfy the interactive requirement for in-person training, having the presenter asks questions or allowing employees to ask questions throughout the presentation would be sufficient. A feedback survey for employees to submit after completing the training qualifies as interactive for either web-based or in-person training.
Worth noting: In clarifying what constitutes “interactive,” NY State’s website says that training in which an individual only watches a training video or reads a document, with no feedback mechanism or interaction, would not be considered interactive.
New York City
In addition to complying with NY State’s laws, NYC employers also need to comply with local anti-harassment laws recently passed. The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act applies to all NYC employers with 15 or more workers. However, all NYC employers, regardless of their size, must protect employees against gender-based harassment.
NYC employers must train part-time or temporary employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year and work for at least 90 days. Employers are also required to train independent contractors who have worked more than 90 days and more than 80 hours in a calendar year.
Mark Your Calendars: Beginning on April 1, 2019, employers with 15 or more employees must provide employees with sexual harassment prevention training every calendar year. New employees should receive training within 90 days of hire.
Under the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, anti-harassment training must include:
- An explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under the NYC Human Rights Law
- A statement that sexual harassment is also a form of unlawful discrimination under state and federal law
- A description of what sexual harassment is, with examples of behavior that constitutes sexual harassment
- Information about bystander intervention and any resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention
- Information about the internal complaint process available to address sexual harassment claims
- An explanation of the complaint process available through the NYC Commission on Human Rights, the NY State Division of Human Rights and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and contact information for these agencies
- An explanation and examples of retaliation and why it is prohibited under the law
- Specific responsibilities of supervisors and managers to prevent sexual harassment and retaliation, and measures they may take to appropriately address sexual harassment complaints
In addition, NYC Local Law 96 requires a signed employee acknowledgment form confirming that each employee completed the training. Employers must keep a record of all trainings and acknowledgment forms for three years. The signed acknowledgment form may be electronic.
All organizations doing business in New York should be aware of new, stronger anti-harassment laws passed this spring and prepare now to meet the sexual harassment training guidelines and deadlines. Effective sexual harassment training should be interactive, relevant to employees and their environment, cover topics such as anti-retaliation training and bystander intervention and provide the knowledge and skills employees need to recognize, speak up and report harassment whenever they experience or observe it.