“While the federal government repeatedly ignores the voices of women speaking out against the scourge of sexual violence, in New York, we are taking action,” Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, said.
On April 12, 2018, Governor Cuomo signed into law the FY 2019 New York State Budget, which included important sexual harassment standards for all employers in the state. A proposal from his 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity; the package is, according to New York State, the most comprehensive one pertaining to sexual harassment in the United States. It also includes materials, such as a model sexual harassment policy and a list of requirements for employer policies, based on the feedback and advice of many different individuals, advocates and advocacy groups, employers, organizations across a wide range of industries, and others.
Why Are These Laws Necessary?
“More can be done to change the culture and create an environment where women can come forward and be believed,” said New York’s Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “That’s what we are doing in New York with these nation-leading initiatives that will ensure the security of victims and a safe environment for all employees in the workplace.”
Clearly, the New York State government is prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of its workers. Compliance is essential for any employer, and training is crucial for ensuring that the organization is meeting the state laws and the needs of its employees.
What are the laws, and how can organizations ensure that they are compliant? Here’s what you should know.
As per Section 201-g of the New York State Labor Law, employers must adopt the model sexual harassment prevention policy (more below) or a policy that meets or exceeds the following minimum standards. The policy must:
- Prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights.
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment.
- Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws.
- Include a complaint form.
- Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.
- Inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially.
- Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
- Clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.
(Source: Minimum Standards for Sexual Harassment Prevention Policies, New York State: Combatting Sexual Harassment)
New York State also offers a Sexual Harassment Prevention Model Policy that any employer may use. Employers in the state are not required to use this policy but must adhere to the guidelines above if they choose to adopt an alternative policy.
In Layman’s Terms
In Summary, your organization must ensure that it meets the standards outlined above. In layman’s terms, you and your organization need to:
- Offer examples of prohibited conduct.
- Explore the resources available to victims of sexual harassment – This includes providing a complainant form and procedure for investigating complaints in a timely and confidential manner.
- Inform employees of their rights regarding the effective handling of sexual harassment –
Procedures must be outlined, including those for redress, and be handled in a way that is fair to all parties involved.
- Explain how and why sexual harassment constitutes employee misconduct.
- State that retaliation against anyone who is a victim of or reports sexual harassment is against the law.
A policy must state what sexual harassment means and what actions will be taken against employees who engage in it and supervisors or managers who are aware of violations and don’t address them.
Ensuring Your Organization Adheres to New York State’s Sexual Harassment Laws
So, how do you ensure that your organization is complying with New York’s laws?
A sexual harassment policy is essential, but in order to make certain that your employees, including supervisors and managers, are fully compliant with New York’s sexual harassment laws, training is imperative. Interactive Services Compliance Training’s sexual harassment training module fully satisfies these requirements and more, covering areas such as:
- What sexual harassment means, including real-life examples and what constitutes an actionable scenario.
- The many types of sexual harassment that can and do occur in the workplace.
- How sexual harassment impacts individuals, organizations, and the workforce.
- Gender identity and sexual harassment-based discrimination.
- Federal and state laws concerning sexual harassment, with particular attention to states such as New York.
At the end of the day, sexual harassment training is essential for a safe workplace. Learning this information is fundamental to keeping your organization secure for everyone and compliant with the New York State laws.
Want to learn more about how Interactive Services Compliance Training can help your company meet New York’s sexual harassment laws and keep your organization running smoothly? Contact us today to learn about our sexual harassment module and more.