New York City Council Proposes Laws to Mandate Sex Harassment Training and Expand Sex Harassment Protections Under the Human Rights Law
On March 7, 2018 the New York City Council formally introduced “The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” a package of 11 bills, aimed at strengthening protections against, and remedies for, sexual harassment in the workplace. As discussed below, four of these bills, if enacted, would significantly expand the obligations of many employers to prevent sexual harassment and would increase all private NYC employers’ vulnerability to sexual harassment claims.
Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training
Int. 632 would require all private NYC employers with 15 or more employees to conduct annual, “interactive” training on sexual harassment for all full-time and part-time employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year in NYC. The training could be in person or through an online program.
Specifically, the annual, interactive training for employees must include the following:
- An explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under local, state and federal law;
- A description of what sexual harassment is and is not, using practical examples;
- A description of the employer’s internal complaint processes, if any, available to employees to address sexual harassment claims;
- A description of the complaint process available through the Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”), the New York State Division of Human Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including contact information;
- An explanation, with examples, of what constitutes “retaliation” under the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”); and
- A discussion of the importance of bystander intervention.
In addition to this general training requirement, NYC employers would also be required to train their supervisors and managers annually on subjects such as their role in the prevention of harassment and retaliation, and how to address sexual harassment complaints.
The bill defines “interactive training” as “participatory teaching whereby the trainee is engaged in a trainer-trainee interaction, use of audio-visuals, or other participatory forms of training as determined by the commission.” The bill further directs the Commission to develop online training modules for small, medium and large workplaces that would satisfy the training requirement, and to allow for the electronic provision of certification each time an employee completes a training module.
Additionally, covered employers would be required to maintain records, for three years, of all training, including a signed employee acknowledgement that must include (i) the date, time, title, duration and location of the training; (ii) whether the training was conducted live or online; and (iii) the name of the person(s) who conducted the training.
If passed, Int. 632 will take effect on September 1, 2018. Penalties for violations of the law would range from $100-$500 for the first violation and from $500-$2,000 for each succeeding violation. However, an employer would be able to avoid a penalty for a first-time violation if the employer could prove within 60 days of the issuance of the notice of violation that it has complied with the law.
New Sexual Harassment Poster
Int. 630 would require all employers in New York City to post a sexual harassment rights and responsibilities poster in English and Spanish, and to provide new hires with an information sheet on sexual harassment, which would both be created by the Commission and made available to employers. If passed, Int. 630 would take effect 120 days after enactment and would carry civil penalties for non-compliance.
More Time to File a Complaint
Int. 663 would lengthen the statute of limitations for harassment claims arising under the NYCHRL. Instead of the current one-year statute of limitations, aggrieved employees would be permitted to file complaints up to three years from the date of the alleged harassment. This longer statute of limitations would apply to claims “based on unwelcome conduct that intimidates, interferes with, oppresses, threatens, humiliates or degrades a person based in whole or in part on such person’s gender.” This bill would take effect immediately upon enactment.
Expanded Employer Coverage under the NYCHRL
Currently, the NYCHRL applies to employers with four or more employees. Int. 657 would eliminate that employee threshold with respect to gender-based harassment claims, thereby subjecting all NYC employers to potential liability for sex harassment under the NYCHRL.1
We will continue to monitor these bills as the legislation proceeds and provide updates on any significant developments.
1. New York State expanded sexual harassment and discrimination protections to all employees in 2015.