New York employers have been given clear warnings by both state and city governments that victims of sexual harassment deserve special attention, evidenced by the law making these victims beneficiaries of significant new protections. Employers in New York City have even more reason to become familiar and compliant given the important changes described below.
The changes to the New York State Executive Law are as follows:
- Effective immediately, employers are liable for gender-based harassment experienced by non-employees, such as contractors, vendors, or consultants. As a result, employers must address harassment of non-employees or face consequences.
- Effective July 11, 2018, New York employers may not include non-disclosure agreements in any settlement agreement that encompasses sexual harassment claims unless the complaint specifically requests confidentiality. Agreements containing such provisions will be unenforceable unless complainants are given 21 days to revoke a request for confidentiality after signing.
- Effective July 11, 2018, New York employers may not include in their handbooks and contracts mandatory arbitration provisions for allegations or claims of sexual harassment "except where inconsistent with federal law." It remains to be determined how that inconsistency will manifest itself.
- Effective October 9, 2018, New York employers must adopt policies that equal or exceed the model policy and training program in development by the New York Department of Labor in collaboration with the State Division of Human Rights. (This is the only amendment that does not require employers' immediate attention.)
The "Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act" includes the following provisions applicable to New York City employers only:
- Effective immediately, sexual harassment must be treated as a distinct form of discrimination. This provision regarding claims of sexual harassment applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees (the prior law covered only employers with four or more employees).
- Effective September 6, 2018, all New York City employees must display a new anti-sexual harassment poster in a conspicuous location. The poster is to be created by the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Employers must post both English and Spanish versions.
- As of April 1, 2019, New York City employers with 15 or more employees will be required to conduct annual sexual harassment training for all employees. These trainings include the following: "interactive" training, explanation of what sexual harassment is, and advice on the process to report complaints internally and to the respective federal, state, and city administrative agencies.
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