2019 Brings New Sexual Harassment Training Requirements to New York Employers

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New York state has tightened its rules about sexual harassment at work. Starting in 2019, the state is imposing new sexual harassment training requirements on all New York employers for new hires and existing employees. Find out what to expect and what you can do if your employer isn’t living up to expectations.

In this blog post I will review a New York law that imposes sexual harassment training requirements for new employees on all state and private employers. I will review guidelines published by the state setting deadlines and best practices for the trainings. I will also review who is covered by the law, and how employers may try to get around the training requirements.

Sexual Harassment Training is Key to Preventing Hostile Work Environments

Sexual harassment in the workplace can create tension between employees and build a hostile work environment where no one wants to work. From an employer’s perspective, sexual harassment may interrupt productivity, increase absenteeism, and cause valuable employees to leave. But detecting and preventing sexual harassment can be difficult, especially because some forms of harassment almost always happen behind closed doors.

A key part of preventing hostile work environments is training employees to recognize the signs of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and to know how to report when harassment occurs. That’s why New York State made mandatory sexual harassment training a part of its 2019 State Budget. The new law, which was effective October 9, 2018, was the first of its kind, imposing sexual harassment training requirements on both public and private employers across the state.

What’s Included in the New Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

When the announcement of the sexual harassment training requirements was first made, some commentators were concerned about the details. They said not all trainings were created equal. The effectiveness of the training depended on what was involved, and how well employers implement the the new programs. The New York State model trainings address many of these concerns. At a minimum, the training must:

  • Be completed as soon as reasonable after each attorney was hired
  • Happen at least once per year
  • Be interactive
  • Explain what sexual harassment is
  • Give examples of unlawful sexual harassment conduct
  • Describe state and federal remedies for the victims of sexual harassment
  • Explain employees’ rights and where and how they can assert these rights
  • Address how to respond to unlawful conduct by superiors
  • Lay out the additional responsibilities for supervisors

Originally, these sexual harassment training requirements were scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2019. However, after receiving public comment, the Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights pushed back the deadline. Now, all New York employees must complete sexual harassment training no later than October 9, 2019.

New York Division of Human Rights Provides Model Training Videos

To help employers meet the sexual harassment training requirements, the Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights have put together a script, a slides for use for in-person training, and sample training videos for employers to use. However, the videos alone won’t satisfy all the employer’s responsibilities. On its website, the State said,

“The videos below, which may be watched via YouTube or downloaded, meet all state minimum training requirements except one: the videos alone are NOT considered interactive. If you are using this video to meet the training requirements, you must also: ask questions of employees as part of the program; accommodate questions asked by employees, with answers provided in a timely manner; or require feedback from employees about the training and the materials presented.”

Options for Employees When Employer-Provided Trainings Fall Short

The sexual harassment training requirements are designed to hold employers responsible for preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace. When those trainings fall short, and sexual harassment occurs, employees have the right to file a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At Eisenberg & Baum, our New York City-based sexual harassment attorneys know how the new laws have affected your rights, and what you can do if your employer isn’t keeping up with the sexual harassment training requirements. We will help you negotiate with your employer, file the necessary administrative claims, and represent you in court. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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