In Spring 2018, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the 2019 budget into law. In addition to regulating spending and revenue for the state, it also updates sexual harassment law for employers. As of January 2019, all NYS employers will need to be compliant with these new state policies.
What do employers and employees need to know about these changes? Reviewing the new NYS sexual harassment prevention laws will inform every worker and employer in New York State of what they need to know about preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace.
There are three main changes to be aware of:
- Employers must establish a formal sexual harassment prevention policy and share it with all employees.
- The policy must also include and share a complaint form with employees that can be used to file formal sexual harassment complaints.
- Employers must also provide mandatory sexual harassment prevention training to all employees on an annual basis.
Employees will notice some changes, including the annual mandatory sexual harassment prevention training, but it is employers who have the most work to do in order to prepare for these changes.
What does your company’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy need to do?
According to the new state policy, your company’s sexual harassment prevention policy must (please note the below section was pulled directly from the New York State website):
- 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
How do you create a complaint form?
There are several things to consider when creating a complaint form. In addition to choosing what information you will collect from an employee who is lodging a complaint, you must also have a policy in place for completing an investigation upon receiving a complaint.
An investigation involves speaking separately with the employee and the alleged harasser, interviewing any witnesses to the behavior, and collecting and reviewing related documents.
You may use NYS’s model form or create your own.
What kind of training do you need to provide?
Employers are now required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees on an annual basis. You have the option of using the standard NYS-provided training, or you can create your own. However, if you create your own, it must meet or exceed all of the standards and benchmarks of the state’s model.
The training is required to (please note the below section was pulled directly from the New York State website):
- be interactive
- include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights
- include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment
- include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
- include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints
- include information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors
What are your next steps?
As you consider what changes your company needs to make to become compliant with the law, it will be necessary to survey the status of your current sexual harassment policies and what will need to be updated. Some companies will have a lot more work to do than others.
New York State offers model policies, forms, and training programs that you can use to create your own materials, or you can outsource this important part of your work to a company like Complete Payroll that understands every aspect of this law and how to implement it efficiently and in compliance with each part of the new state policy.