The deadline is around the corner for New York employers to comply with sexual harassment training rules and ensure all employees complete training by Oct. 9, 2019. Traliant’s Chief Learning Officer, Andrew Rawson, outlined the training requirements in a recent article in Law360. Here’s an excerpt:
Train Employees as Soon as Possible
By Oct. 9, 2019, all New York employers must provide sexual harassment training to each employee. Once the initial training is completed, employers must conduct annual training for all employees, regardless of their immigration status. This includes part-time employees, temporary employees, seasonal workers, and exempt and nonexempt employees.
The new laws apply to all New York employers. However, New York City organizations with 15 or more employees have a few additional requirements under the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act. Moreover, while the New York City act imposes a different training deadline — Dec. 31, 2019 — to avoid confusion, employers would be wise to adhere to the Oct. 9 target date set forth by the state.
Employers in the Empire State should also be aware of an amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law, effective October 11, 2019, that removes the “severe or pervasive” definition of sexual harassment. Lowering the legal barrier for proving sexual harassment is another compelling reason to implement anti-harassment policies and training that are current with federal, state and local laws, and promote positive behavior and a respectful workplace culture.
New York state requires the training to:
- Be interactive and involve some level of employee participation;
- Explain what sexual harassment is, consistent with guidance from the New York State 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; and
- Be available in the language spoken by employees.
New York State also encourages employers to keep copies of training records and a signed acknowledgment that employees have read the organization’s anti-harassment policy. Under New York City’s law, employers must retain records for at least three years and make them available for inspection by the NYC Commission on Human Rights upon request.
In addition, New York City mandates that training cover bystander intervention, retaliation and provide information on the complaint process available through the NYC Commission on Human Rights, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Whether web-based or in-person, New York State requires that the training must be interactive. For web-based training, this could be asking questions at the end of a section that require employees to select the right answer, offering an option to submit a question online, or including a feedback survey for employees. What doesn’t qualify is having employees passively watch a training video or read a document without any interaction or feedback mechanism.
In the #MeToo era, lawmakers, the EEOC, human resource professionals and other workplace experts agree that sexual harassment training can no longer solely focus on the law and avoiding liability. Incorporating bystander intervention, workplace respect and civility, and other behavior-based topics can make sexual harassment training more effective in strategic and practical ways.