By Mark F. Kluger and William H. Healey
By October 9, 2018, employers from Buffalo to Brooklyn will be required to implement annual sexual harassment training for employees working in New York State. A series of laws passed by the state legislature and the New York City council impose significant new burdens on New York employers.
The state law mandates minimum standards for content and method of training. The content must include an explanation defining sexual harassment, identify the federal, state and local laws, provide practical examples, and get this, the material must instruct employees on their “rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints.” That’s right, lead the horses right to the water. Managers must also receive enhanced training on their unique responsibilities. The law also requires that the training be “interactive” and while it remains unclear whether interactive means with a live trainer, we have a thought on that subject.
SPOILER ALERT: THE FOLLOWING IS SELF-SERVING BUT SINCERE: We have been conducting sexual harassment training programs since 1995, in every imaginable work environment, and we know that there is only one way to be sure that the subject is understood, that the message is received, and now, that these new legal requirements are met: the trainer must be able to look into the eyes of the participants, to engage in live interaction, and drill home the important points. This is not accomplished through preachy lectures or rote learning of laws, but by engaging in non-judgmental discussions about real situations in real workplaces. Dynamic live training works. Even though click through computer training may get the box checked, it does not seep into the cortex. That’s right, we’re like brain surgeons!
The New York City version of the training law, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, kicks in April 1, 2019 but adds a few additional requirements to the state mandate. All new hires must be trained within 90 days, a by-stander component must be included, and records of training, including a signed acknowledgement of attendance, must be maintained for at least 3 years.
There are some other important changes for all New York State employers:
- A policy and complaint procedure with certain mandatory provisions must be implemented;
- Effective July 11, 2018, employers cannot include a confidentiality provision in a sex harassment settlement agreement unless the employee agrees and he/she must be given 21 days to consider such a provision and 7 days to change their mind if they do consent;
- Employers will be liable if their employees sexually harass non-employees. We would like to take a moment to wish the construction industry the best of luck.
In the City, by September 6, 2018, employers must post an anti-sexual harassment poster in a conspicuous place and hand out a flyer regarding the City’s Human Rights Law to all new employees, both of which are to be produced and disseminated by the City. We will hold our collective breath to see if they get that done in time.
Whether your employees take Amtrak, Metro-North, LIRR, NJT, the 7, the 4 or the D, you must hop on the training train ASAP. Those employers who don’t conduct training and then get hit with a sexual harassment claim, will be on track for difficult and costly problems. Don’t get derailed! And, with all that is going on these days in workplaces and legislatures everywhere, it will be no surprise if New Jersey and other states soon follow NY’s lead. We can help.
Check out our two cents on sexual harassment prevention in gyms in NBCNews.com below.