United States: New York Enacts Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws

Last Updated: May 18 2018
Article by Joshua Zuckerberg and LaKeisha M.A. Caton

New York State and New York City have each enacted new anti-sexual harassment laws aimed at ending sexual harassment in the workplace that will affect virtually every employer. The State law, which was part of the 2019 Budget Bill, was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 12, 2018. The City law, known as the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on May 9, 2018.

The New York State Law

Specifically, New York State law contains the following requirements for all New York employers:

  • The New York State Human Rights Law will now provide protections against sexual harassment to "non-employees," including independent contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants and other persons providing services pursuant to a contract. This provision took effect on April 12, 2018. 
  • Starting July 11, 2018, employers may not include a confidentiality or nondisclosure provision in any settlement, agreement or other resolution of a claim involving sexual harassment unless (i) the condition of confidentiality is the preference of the complainant; (ii) the complainant has 21 days to review such a provision; and (iii) the complainant has 7 days following the execution of the agreement to revoke the agreement. 
  • Starting July 11, 2018, employers may not enter into contracts that contain a provision requiring the mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims, except where such a prohibition is inconsistent with federal law. Given that the Federal Arbitration Act governs the enforceability of arbitration agreements, the impact of this provision has yet to be determined. Furthermore, it is also noteworthy that the State law provides a carve-out for mandatory arbitration provisions contained in collective bargaining agreements. 
  • Starting October 9, 2018, employers must distribute written anti-sexual harassment policies to all of their employees. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) will consult with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) and create and publish a model sexual harassment prevention guide and a sexual harassment prevention policy. Employers must adopt this model sexual harassment prevention policy or establish their own policy that equals or exceeds the minimum standard provided in the model policy. 
  • Starting October 9, 2018, employers must provide annual anti-harassment training for all of their employees. The NYSDOL will consult with the NYSDHR and produce a model sexual harassment prevention training program, and employers must utilize this model training program or establish their own training program that equals or exceeds the minimum standards provided by the model training program.

The New York City Law

Expansion of Protections Under the New York City Human Rights Law

The New York City law amends the definition of "employer" under the New York City Human Rights Law to include employers with fewer than four employees in actions concerning sexual harassment claims, and extends the amount of time complainants have to file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) from one year to three years. This means that every private employer in New York City can be sued for sexual harassment. This provision took effect on May 9, 2018.


The City law requires employers with 15 or more employees to conduct annual interactive anti-sexual harassment trainings for all employees, including supervisory and managerial employees. Such training is required after 90 days of an employee's initial hire for employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year and who perform work on a full-time or part-time basis. Employers must keep a record of all trainings for three years, including a signed employee acknowledgment. The NYCCHR will develop an online training program that may be used by an employer to satisfy this requirement, provided that the employer informs all employees of any internal complaint process available to them to address sexual harassment claims. This legislation will take effect on April 1, 2019.

Notice of Rights

The City law requires employers with 15 or more employees to conspicuously display an anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities poster designed by the NYCCHR in employee breakrooms or other common areas where employees gather. Employers at a minimum must display the poster in English and in Spanish. Furthermore, the NYCCHR will develop an information sheet on sexual harassment that employers must distribute to employees at the time of hire. This part of the City law takes effect on September 9, 2018.

Interaction of State and City Laws

While the State and City laws overlap in their coverage, there are some differences. The State law will apply to employers of all sizes throughout New York State. Some of the City law provisions, particularly those concerning training, will apply to employers of 15 or more and will not take effect until next year.


To ensure compliance with these new laws, New York employers should review and revise their employee manuals and policies, and their standard employment, separation, and settlement agreements. Employees should also prepare to begin conducting annual anti-harassment and discrimination trainings, or revisit the content discussed during their current annual trainings.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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