New York States’ sexual harassment prevention laws passed this spring are among the most comprehensive in the US. As a result, HR practitioners and their organizations should have plans well underway to meet the new requirements as deadlines are fast approaching.
Under the new laws, New York-based employers must conduct annual sexual harassment training for all employees − including part-time, temporary and seasonal workers − by October 9, 2019. As employers may be liable for the actions of employees immediately upon hire, the State encourages training as soon as possible. Going forward, organizations must conduct sexual harassment prevention training annually.
The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) recently finalized their guidelines outlining the specific requirements for sexual harassment training, sexual harassment policies and complaint forms, along with FAQs and other materials developed by the DOL, in consultation with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Organizations can adopt these models or implement their own sexual harassment training and policies, as long as they meet NY State’s minimum standards. The materials can be found on their new website, Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.
Here are some takeaways to keep in mind as you prepare to train your workforce to comply with the new laws:
- All employees should complete sexual harassment prevention training before October 9, 2019.
- Thereafter, employees must complete annual training, which organizations can base on the calendar year, the anniversary of each employee’s start date or any other date.
- As employers may be liable for the actions of employees immediately upon hire, the State encourages training as soon as possible. New employees include part-time and temporary workers.
- It’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that all employees are trained to the organization’s standards and are familiar with the organization’s specific anti-harassment and anti-discrimination practices.
- Sexual harassment training should:
- Be interactive, requiring some level of employee participation and may be web-based
- Include an explanation of sexual harassment, including quid pro quo and hostile environment, consistent with guidance issued by the DOL and Division of Human Rights
- Provide examples of unlawful sexual harassment
- Include information on state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
- Address 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
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted verbal or physical advance, sexually explicit or derogatory statement, or sexually discriminatory remark that is offensive or objectionable to the recipient, or which interferes with his or her job performance.
Source: NY State’s Model Sexual Harassment Training, July 2018
With the October 9, 2019 deadline looming to comply with NY sexual harassment training and prevention laws, the next months represent a critical time to assess your workplace culture, tone from the top and anti-harassment strategy and initiatives. This includes actively reviewing and updating your sexual harassment training programs, policies, procedures, and hiring practices. An effective training program can and should be an important part of a holistic approach to raising awareness of sexual harassment and other misconduct in the workplace and creating a respectful, inclusive, diverse culture that engages all employees, at every level throughout your organization.