New York State Human Rights Law
Each state has laws and regulations pertaining to human rights and is also governed federally based on the number of employees each company has. For example, if you are an employer with at least 15 employees, the employees are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In New York, the State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination based on specific protected classes and allows for protection against sexual harassment. Furthermore, there is a blanket Sexual Harassment Policy for All Employers in New York State that discusses what is prohibited and who may be liable. For example, one crucial provision within the policy states: Employees of every level who engage in sexual harassment or who knowingly allow such behavior to continue will be penalized for such misconduct.”
This aspect can mean that multiple parties will be liable for prohibited sexual harassment, such as the management, the employer, and the party who is guilty of harassment.
Do Employees Have Protection From Retaliation?
One of the common reasons why sexual harassment isn’t reported or discussed is due to fear of retaliation in the workplace. What New York State includes in its Sexual Harassment Policy is specific protection against retaliation, which reads: “No person covered by this Policy shall be subject to adverse employment action including being discharged, disciplined, discriminated against, or otherwise subject to adverse employment action because the employee reports an incident of sexual harassment, provides information, or otherwise assists in any investigation or a sexual complaint.”
Stop Sexual Harassment Act in New York City
Starting in 2019, employers in New York are required to conduct annual training for their employees regarding sexual harassment. If an employer has 15 or more employees at any point during the previous calendar year, they must complete annual training for all staff.
The Stop Sexual Harassment Act also stipulates that workers who have completed more than 80 hours in a calendar year or have worked for at least 90 days are also required to undergo the training. This additional requirement can account for workers who are short-term employees, independent contractors, interns, or part-time employees.
What Must Be Covered in the Annual Training?
Minimum requirements for annual training include the following:
A thorough description of what sexual harassment is, using examples
The specific responsibilities of those in a supervisory role, such as management. Responsibilities such as prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation and what measures supervisory employees may take to address the situation appropriately.
Information relating to bystander intervention
A full description of the complaint process so all employees are aware of how and when to report sexual harassment complaints.
Details regarding any in-house complaint processes that each employer may have in place.
A clear statement that sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under federal and state law.
Explicit information regarding retaliation prohibition and examples of retaliation.
When Should New Employees Be Trained?
All new employees should be trained on sexual harassment policies as soon as possible. Employers can include this training in their onboarding material and require that employees complete it before or during their new role training.
Upon the hire date, employers are liable for any sexual harassment the employee is subjected to. The employee would then undergo annual sexual harassment training each year for the employer to remain compliant.
What If My Employer Doesn’t Discuss Annual Training?
You may have already completed the annual training requirement if you have multiple jobs or have changed jobs in the past year. You can typically provide proof of completion to your employer to satisfy the annual requirement.
If your employer doesn’t discuss the annual training requirement and isn’t enforcing it, you can file a complaint as that employer is in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.
Additional requirements of the employer, as stipulated in the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, include that the employer must post a notice of employee’s rights in regard to sexual harassment and distribute a fact sheet to each employee explaining their rights.
Notices can be placed in conspicuous locations such as employee break rooms and, if virtually, on electronic bulletin boards or to remote employees via email.
You should receive your fact sheet regarding sexual harassment by the end of your first week of employment.
Harassment Attorneys: Fierce Advocacy For Employers and Employees
We’ve all been there, with a career or job that may not be fun or is stressful. A workplace, however, should never consist of unsafe or unlawful practices such as sexual harassment. Whether you are an employer or an employee with concerns of sexual harassment in the workplace, the time to act is now. You are generally protected through state and federal laws.
Employers can inadvertently become subject to liabilities if they ignore or turn a blind eye to concerns of sexual harassment in the workplace. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you are an employee who has been subjected to sexual harassment, you may be eligible to pursue damages. Damages in sexual harassment cases can consist of lost wages, emotional harm, lawyer fees, lost future income, out-of-pocket expenses, and even punitive damages in some cases.
Contact our office at (314) 648-2586 to speak with one of our capable and passionate team members.