What Employers Must Know About Changes to New York’s Sexual Harassment Laws BY WHITNEY KUMMEROW AND EMILY MIDDLEBROOK
s most employers are now aware, New York state recently enacted legislation aimed at strengthening sexual harassment laws and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Under these new laws, every employer doing business in New York state, regardless of size, is now required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees.
REQUIRING ANNUAL SEXUAL HARASSMENT TRAINING Under the changes to New York’s sexual harassment laws, all employers must offer sexual harassment training to all employees on an annual basis. Employers can use the calendar year or employee’s anniversary date to determine when to offer training. Additionally, employers must ensure their annual sexual harassment training either meets or exceeds the state’s model training program, which states that the training must be interactive and include: • An explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment • Examples of prohibited conduct that constitutes sexual harassment • Information concerning federal and state statutes involving sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment • Information related to supervisor responsibilities and how to address supervisor conduct • Information explaining an employee’s rights of redress and the available forums for resolving sexual harassment claims. 40 • Northeast Dairy Foods Association, Inc.
While for several months the state left employers puzzled over what would constitute “interactive” sexual harassment training, the New York State Division of Human Rights and the New York State Department of Labor have attempted to clarify what this means. Although the sexual harassment legislation fails to define “interactive,” the state has explained that training requires employee participation, which can be accomplished through the following: • Web-based instruction, which includes quizzes where the employee must select the correct answer • Web-based training where employees have an option to submit a question online and receive an answer either immediately or in a timely fashion • In-person training where the trainer asks employees questions throughout the program and provides employees time to ask questions • Either web-based or in-person training where employees must submit a feedback survey after completing the training The state has made clear that sexual harassment training that simply entails watching a video or reading a document about what constitutes sexual harassment will not be considered “interactive” and would fail to meet the state’s requirements. Although employers are encouraged to offer a training program that either equals or exceeds the state’s model sexual harassment training program as soon as possible, employers must offer training that meets the minimum standards by Oct. 9, 2019.