The #MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on the pervasiveness and far-reaching implications of sexual harassment in the workplace. For companies operating in New York State, the movement has now spawned new legislation, mandating that all employers subject to New York State labor law provide employees with annual sexual-harassment prevention training.
New York City (NYC) also passed a law this year stipulating its own requirements for sexual-harassment prevention training, including different effective dates and limitations. For the sake of clarity, this article solely focuses on the new legislation in New York State. However, footnotes have been added to indicate where the new NYC requirements differ from those at the state level.
The guidance on the New York State legislation is still evolving, but here’s what we know so far—and equally important, what is still up in the air.
On April 12, 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation aimed at preventing sexual harassment. The law, which is effective October 9, 2018, requires all private employers to provide annual sexual-harassment prevention training. According to the new law, this training must include: (1) an explanation of sexual harassment; (2) examples of sexual harassment; (3) information concerning the federal and state laws concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims; and (4) information concerning employees’ rights of redress and forums for complaints. In addition to these criteria, the law also requires the training to be “interactive,” and managers must receive additional training.
To provide guidance on what the mandated sexual-harassment prevention training should look like, the New York State Department of Labor, in conjunction with the New York State Division of Human Rights, issued a draft model training program on August 23, 2018. The draft will be open for public comment until September 12, 2018, and a final version will be issued at some point after that date. Employers may adopt the model training program, or implement their own as long as it meets the minimum requirements laid out in the new law.
Thankfully, the draft model training program provides certain additional guidance. Most importantly, it specifies that the training must be provided to all employees by January 1, 2019, and new employees must be trained within 30 days of their start date. This leaves a question regarding employees hired between the law’s effective date of October 9th and the January 1st deadline—do they need to be trained within 30 days of their start date? This gray area will hopefully be addressed by the state during the comment period.
The draft program also provides some guidance regarding what the law means by “interactive”: essentially, the program requires some level of participation by those being trained. In its current version, the draft does not include a requirement that the course be a certain length or take a certain amount of time. And importantly, the script within the draft model training program gives some indication of what the state expects as far as an explanation and examples of sexual harassment.
While this much-anticipated document answers many of the questions that were raised by the new NY State law, we will have to see the final version to be certain of all requirements.
As a leading provider of interactive and fully adaptive compliance training solutions, True Office Learning is creating learning solutions that will help companies meet these requirements, leveraging its experience with developing sexual-harassment prevention training for other jurisdictions. True Office Learning will also continue to monitor this space and will update its solutions accordingly.
Though guidance on the legislation is still evolving, employers in New York State should begin to review their sexual-harassment prevention training programs to see if they comply with the requirements that are known thus far. A means of documenting completion and performance in order to demonstrate compliance should also be factored into your plans. Acting proactively can help you avoid an unpleasant, and potentially costly, rush to get into compliance when the final version of the model training program is released.
|1The NYC law is effective April 1, 2019. In addition, NYC has different employee thresholds for defining which employers must comply with the law.
2 NYC has different requirements for the content of the training.
3 The NYC Commission on Human Rights will also be creating a model online training module that will be publicly available. As of August 28, 2018, this model training program had not been released.
4 Under the new NYC law, new hires must be trained within 90 days.