Strict New Sexual Harassment Laws in Place in New York!

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Strict New Sexual Harassment Laws in Place in New York!

October 11, 2018

Lía Fiol-Matta, Esq.

October 9, 2018 was an important deadline in New York for all employers, regardless of their size, to adopt and distribute, either in paper form or electronically, a written, comprehensive sexual harassment policy to all their employees. New York State recently launched the “Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” website (, where employees and employers can obtain final versions of sexual harassment prevention training and policy materials, view frequently asked questions (FAQs) and obtain additional guidance on the new laws implemented to strengthen protections against sexual harassment on the job.

Employers in the state are free to craft their own policies, as long as these meet or exceed the minimum standards set forth in the new 2019 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo on April 12, 2018. In the alternative, employers may adopt the State’s model policy and complaint which can be accessed on the website. The State’s minimum standards are that sexual harassment policies must:

  1. Prohibit sexual harassment, following guidelines of the NY Department of Labor and the NY Division of Human Rights;
  2. Provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute sexual harassment;
  3. Include information on federal, state and local laws that address sexual harassment, as well as the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment;
  4. Refer to a complaint form;
  5. Include a procedure to investigate complaints in a fair, timely and confidential manner;
  6. Inform employees of all available means and places where they can have their sexual harassment complaints investigated and decided administratively and judicially;
  7. State clearly that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that employees who engage in such conduct will receive sanctions, as will supervisors and managers who knowingly allow the behavior to continue;
  8. State clearly that it is unlawful to retaliate against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or participate in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment.

The New York State Budget also requires employers to train all employees on sexual harassment by October 9, 2019. After that, employers must provide sexual harassment training to all employees each year. In addition, the law requires newly hired employees to be trained on sexual harassment as soon as possible after starting employment. In the case of employees based in another state but who work a portion of their time in New York, the law requires that they also receive annual sexual harassment training.

The new law allows employers to choose between adopting the State’s model training materials or implementing live training or interactive online/video training, as long as such training complies with the minimum standards of the new law. At a minimum, sexual harassment trainings must:

  1. Be interactive;
  2. Explain sexual harassment consistent with guidance from the NY Department of Labor and NY Division Human Rights;
  3. Include examples of sexual harassment conduct;
  4. Include information on federal and state laws concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims;
  5. Inform employees of all available means and places where they can have their sexual harassment complaints investigated and decided administratively and judicially;
  6. Include information on conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities of supervisors with respect to sexual harassment.

In addition, New York employers should provide training in the languages spoken by employees. The State will issue materials in various predominant languages.

New York City also requires employers to comply with the new Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees. While similar in many ways to the State’s content requirements, New York City’s law requires training to address bystander intervention and describe the complaint process available through various federal, state and local agencies and provide such agencies’ contact information.

If you are an employee in New York and have questions regarding the new sexual harassment laws that protect you from this unlawful behavior in the workplace, or if your employer is not following the new sexual harassment laws, you may want to consider contacting an employment lawyer.

This blog is for informational purposes only.  It does not constitute legal advice, and may not reasonably be relied upon as such.  If you face a legal issue, you should consult a qualified attorney for independent legal advice with regard to your particular set of facts.  This blog may constitute attorney advertising.  This blog is not intended to communicate with anyone in a state or other jurisdiction where such a blog may fail to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state of jurisdiction. 

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