- On May 8, 2019
- Employment Law, New York, sexual harassment
Mayor De Blasio and the NYC Commission on Human Rights are dedicated to ending gender-based harassment in the five boroughs. To that end, Mayor De Blasio created a new Sexual Harassment Taskforce in 2018, which is the first in the nation, aimed to assist victims and bring perpetrators to justice. In addition, in 2018, a citywide, multi-media campaign was implemented titled: “It’s sexual harassment.”
In an effort to cultivate workplaces centered on respect, professionalism, accountability, productivity, and safety, Mayor De Blasio signed one of the most robust anti-harassment / anti-discrimination packages of bills in the country. This package of bills, called the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” aims at both addressing and stopping gender harassment, including sexual harassment, in NYC workplaces. It expands the existing New York City Human Rights law, which is already interpreted more liberally than federal law. The sweeping legislation makes unlawful all unwanted sexual behavior, unlawful (ie: jokes or comments).
The new law mandates that employers with 15 or more employees conduct annual anti-harassment training, including several required elements, for all employees by April 1, 2020, and annually after that. The employer must retain a signed acknowledgment of attendance. The law also increases the statute of limitations from 1 to 3 years; and increases anti-harassment protections to all types of employees, regardless of the size of the employer.
With the new law, came the requirement to conspicuously display a newly drafted poster of rights and responsibilities, in both English and Spanish, and the mandate to furnish each new employee with a fact sheet outlining such rights and responsibilities.
Required elements of the mandatory training are the following:
• An explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under local law.
• A statement that sexual harassment is also a form of unlawful discrimination under state and federal law.
• A description of what sexual harassment is, using examples.
• Any internal complaint process available to employees through their employer to address sexual harassment claims;
• The complaint process available through the Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including contact information.
• The prohibition of retaliation including examples.
• Information concerning bystander intervention, including but not limited to any resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention.
• The specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees in the prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation, and measures that such employees may take to address sexual harassment complaints appropriately.
Under these laws, the Commission has the authority to assess violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful, wanton, or malicious violations of the law. The Commission can also award unlimited compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits.
So, what does this mean for my NYC business? It is wise for all New York City businesses to update their policies and procedures under the new law to:
- Ensure that they display the rights and responsibilities poster in both English and Spanish.
- Update their onboarding process to include a fact sheet as required by law.
- Ensure that businesses with 15 or more employees implement annual training for all employees that contains all of the required elements.
- Create a workplace culture that has no place for harassment or discrimination.
Author: Nicole S. Croddick