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New York releases final sexual harassment materials, guidance; training required by October 9

Materials and guidance on New York’s sexual harassment prevention laws have now been finalized, according to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. This follows a public comment period that began August 23, when draft materials and guidance were first published on a new website along with a request for public feedback. The state received and reviewed hundreds of constructive and substantive comments from a wide range of individuals, advocates, industries, worker groups, employers and business organizations.

According to Governor Cuomo, “These common sense policies will help employees and employers know their rights and responsibilities and help enforce the strongest anti-sexual harassment package in the nation.”

Sexual harassment package. On April 12, Governor Cuomo signed into law the FY 2019 New York State Budget, which includes the comprehensive sexual harassment package. This package was a signature proposal from his 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.

The new law:

  • Prohibits employers from using a mandatory arbitration provision in an employment contract in relation to sexual harassment;
  • Requires officers and employees of the state or of any public entity to reimburse the state for any state or public payment made upon a judgment of intentional wrongdoing related to sexual harassment;
  • Ensures that nondisclosure agreements can only be used when the condition of confidentiality is the explicit preference of the victim; and
  • Amends the Human Rights Law to protect contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants or others providing services in the workplace from sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Establishes minimum standards for sexual harassment prevention policies and training. All employers operating in New York State are required to either adopt and use the State’s model policy and training as-is, or to use the models as a basis to establish their own policy and training. All employees working in New York State must receive sexual harassment training by or before October 9, 2019.

New items. Updated items released on October 1:

  • Updated website with resources for employers, employees, state contractors and targets of sexual harassment
  • Updated model sexual harassment prevention policy
  • Updated model sexual harassment complaint form
  • Updated model training (script book and PowerPoint presentation)
  • Updated minimum standards for sexual harassment prevention policies and trainings
  • Updated FAQs

Employer and employee toolkits are available, as well as a sexual harassment prevention policy poster on the website at https://www.ny.gov/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace/employers.

The training and policy materials are being made available in Word and PowerPoint, where applicable, to allow for employer customization. Additionally, the State will be translating these materials into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Italian, Polish, and Haitian-Creole, and creating a video training, all of which will be released in the near future online on the Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace website.

State-provided training. The state will offer both in-person and webinar training sessions to help employers understand the new requirements. A schedule of these events will also be announced in the near future on the website, where visitors may add their name to the list to receive future updates about the state’s sexual harassment prevention policy.