New York releases anti-sexual harassment policy models—comments accepted through September 12

August 31, 2018

Employment Law Alert

Author(s): Tara E. Daub

New York State released proposed guidance documents, including draft FAQs and a draft model anti-sexual harassment policy, internal complaint form, and training materials. The draft documents are open for public comment through September 12, 2018.

As we previously reported, New York State recently enacted legislation, as part of the FY 2019 Executive Budget, expanding protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.[1] Effective October 9, 2018, New York employers must adopt anti-sexual harassment policies and conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training for all employees. The training must equal or exceed minimum standards, consistent with models to be created by the New York State Department of Labor in consultation with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

Last week, as a step toward meeting that task, the state launched a new webpage on its website, which includes a draft model policy, draft model training materials and a draft model complaint form, along with draft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

The draft FAQs and model compliance materials provide some guidance on the agencies’ intentions, but are not final. Notably, the draft model materials contain content that goes beyond the minimum standards set forth in the statute. For example, the draft FAQs advise employers that all employees must complete either “the model training or a comparable training that meets the minimum standards by January 1, 2019.” That deadline does not appear in the statute.

Since these agency guidance documents are still in draft form, and may be revised after the public comment period, employers should not rely on them until they are issued in final form. However, employers are encouraged to review the materials and submit comments, questions, or concerns regarding the draft materials here through September 12, 2018. We will also submit comments and welcome employer suggestions.

While the state is working on finalizing the model materials—hopefully before the law’s October 9, 2018 effective date—employers should take steps to develop a plan for updating their sexual harassment policies by that date, and completing the initial round of mandatory annual sexual harassment prevention training by January 1, 2019.

For the training, the minimum standards set forth in the law require that the training meet the following criteria:

  • Be interactive;
  • Include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the state;
  • 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; and
  • Include information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors.

Additionally, New York City employers should take steps to ensure compliance with the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, as previously reported in previous alerts: “New York City becomes the latest jurisdiction to enhance anti-sexual harassment laws” (May 10, 2018) and “NYC Commission on Human Rights publishes anti-sexual harassment notice and factsheet that NYC employers must provide to employees” (August 20, 2018).

  1. A copy of our April 16, 2018, alert regarding the recently enacted legislation can be found here: “New legislation expands sexual harassment laws, adds policy and training obligations and bars mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims for New York employers.”
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