As you may already know, it matters very little where your company is geographically located, or even if it has multiple sites; there are now sexual harassment-prevention laws that must be followed. While you might argue that your state, or the state in which the company is headquartered, has no set policies around the issue, employers are responsible for ensuring a secure and safe workplace. And that means (as a company owner or operator), you must be sure you are in compliance with sexual harassment prevention laws.
The State of New York has very firm rules around this issue and even specific rules for New York City.
What is Required in New York?
If your firm is located in New York, there have been some laws around this issue dating to 2019. Specifically, since April 1, 2019, when the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act went into place. It requires all employers located in New York City with more than 15 employees, including interns, to conduct an annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees, supervisors, and managers.
However, even before that (dating to October of 2018), the state indicated that all private and public employers were mandated to perform annual anti-harassment training for all employees and distribute a written anti-harassment policy.
The training has to be interactive and emphasize the following issues (per the New York Division of Human Rights):
- “An explanation of what constitutes unlawful or sexual harassment
- Examples of conduct that would be considered unlawful or sexual harassment
- Information on state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment and resources for victims
- Information on employees’ rights and forums for resolving complaints administratively and judicially”
Who Must Be Trained?
According to the State of New York, every employer has to provide employees with the training, and every employer is also required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. Employers in New York City with 15 or more employees are obliged to be in compliance with the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, too. Everyone has to be trained annually.
The term employee includes all employees, regardless of immigration status. It also includes managers, supervisors, exempt and non-exempt employees, part-time workers, temps, and even seasonal workers. Training has to be supplied to anyone who works more than 80 hours in a year or who works for at least 90 days.
New hires should be trained as soon as possible since their employers are liable for any actions of those employees at the time of their being hired. Documentation of training is also required as this is useful should any complaints against a worker arise. As the State’s website notes about the types of records required, no “signed acknowledgment of having read the policy is required, but employers are encouraged to keep a signed acknowledgment and to keep a copy of training records.”
Like many other states instituting formal rules around the issue of sexual harassment training, it must be of the interactive variety. While the burden of ensuring proper training and legal compliance is always on the employer, the employers themselves are not obliged to conduct training.
Instead, it has to be a variety of training in which the employee has the ability to participate or interact. It can be web-based and digital, but an employee must be able to pose and get answers to questions during the sessions, or it can be live training.
New York employers are allowed to use third-party vendors qualified to provide training, and the only requirement is that they offer it in an interactive format that meets the minimum standards.
It is required to include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with the definition issued by the NY Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights. It should also feature examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment.
Interactive training must also provide information about federal and state laws concerning sexual harassment along with valid remedies available to victims of sexual harassment. Training should also include employees’ rights of remedy and all available avenues for adjudicating complaints, as well as detailing the responsibilities of supervisors and managers in preventing and responding. Also, NYC’s guidelines require that the training include material about bystander intervention and retaliation, among other topics.
More Details about Training
Employers in New York are required to offer employees their policies around sexual harassment training at the time they are hired, as well as during annual training. They are to receive a notice that includes the training materials or an explanation of the training. Sexual harassment policies are also to be posted in a highly visible area within the business, and temporary employees, contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and consultants are not obliged to take training. However, the State Human Rights Law imposes liability on an employer for their actions, and so employers are encouraged to provide the policy and training to anyone providing services in the workplace.
No certification is required, and New York does not currently certify or license training providers. Third-party vendors are acceptable and even encouraged, but an employer should ensure that training provided through them meets the specific standards, including interactive components and extra training for those in supervisory roles.