#MeToo: The hashtag that has become a warrior cry for people around the world. Going viral only a year ago, this powerful movement has enacted major change in just a short period of time. Many companies are now directly addressing harassment issues head-on, are being proactive by rewriting spotty anti-harassment policies already in place, and issuing anti-harassment training for all employees, old and new.

However, there is no federal law requiring companies to do any of the procedures listed above. That is why some states are beginning to create their own laws.  New York is currently leading the nation with their anti-sexual harassment agenda as part of Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.

In short, these new laws are helping both the employee and the employer in many ways.

  • First, The Human Rights law now extends its coverage to protect independent contractors from sexual harassment in the workplace in addition to regular employees.
  • Second, employers must adapt a sexual harassment prevention policy and establish training.
  • Third, state contractors must submit proof that they have a sexual harassment policy and that they have trained all their employees by January 1, 2019. The new law also ensures that nondisclosure agreements can only be used when the condition of confidentiality is the explicit preference to the victim.

Model Sexual Harassment Policy

The Model Sexual Harassment Policy requires every employer in New York to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. If an employer chooses not to adopt the model policy, they need to ensure that their policy meets the following minimum standards:

  • Prohibit sexual harassment and provide examples of what sexual harassment could be.
  • Include federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, help available to victims of sexual harassment and a statement about local laws.
  • Include a complaint form and a procedure for timely and confidential investigation that ensures due process for all parties.
  • Inform employees of their rights of redress and forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints.
  • Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforces against individuals engaging in sexual harassment.
  • Also state that the retaliation again individuals who complain about sexual harassment or who testify in an investigation is unlawful.

A model complaint form is also provided to New York businesses to share with their employees if they do not already have one that meets the new standards.

Training

Employers are required to provide all employees with sexual harassment training, whether they are full time, part time, seasonal or temporary. If the employer chooses not to use the training developed by the Department of Labor and Division of Human Resources, their training must:

  • Be interactive and provide an explanation of sexual harassment with examples.
  • Include federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and help available to victims.
  • Note the employees’ rights of redress and information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for those supervisors.

New York employers must begin providing current employees with annual sexual-harassment prevention training that follows these guidelines by Oct. 9, 2019. New hires on or after Jan. 1, 2019 should perform training as soon as practical after hiring. If you still have questions, you can visit the FAQ page here.

Luckily, there are many training services available. PrimePay’s HR Advisory services, powered by ThinkHR, provides training that will put your business in compliance with New York’s new laws. The best part? It's highly affordable (and free for PrimePay clients!). Click here to learn more or fill out the form below.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.