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Significant Changes in Store for New York Employers When It Comes to Sexual Harassment

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the "Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act" into law last week. The Act brings sweeping changes that affect all New York City employers. These are among the most notable:

  • Effective immediately, sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

  • Effective immediately, the NYCHRL covers all employers, regardless of the number of employees, with respect to claims of sexual harassment.

  • Effective immediately, the statute of limitations for filing a gender-based harassment claim with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) is increased from one year to three years.

  • Starting September 6, 2018, all employers must display a new anti-sexual harassment poster, as designed by the NYCCHR, which defines sexual harassment and how to report it. As of today, that poster is not yet available.

Additionally, starting April 1, 2019, all private employers with 15 or more employees must conduct mandatory annual sexual harassment training. Training requirements are quite specific and somewhat similar to California's state law requirements. Notably, the trainings must explain what sexual harassment is by using examples, and explain the process for both internal complaints and for filing complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers must keep records verifying that training was completed, including signed employee acknowledgement, for three years.

The amendments to the NYCHRL make it one of the furthest-reaching anti-sexual harassment laws in the country, and come in the wake of the #MeToo movement and significant amendments to the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) designed to address sexual harassment. The NYSHRL amendments, which affect all employers in New York state, include:

  • a prohibition on confidential settlement agreements in sexual harassment claims, unless confidentiality is requested by the alleged victim;

  • newly created employer liability for independent contractors and certain other non-employees for sexual harassment when the employer, its agents, or supervisors were aware of the harassment of the non-employee and failed to take "immediate and appropriate corrective action."

  • a prohibition on employers requiring employees to enter into mandatory arbitration agreements for sexual harassment claims, except where federal law permits employers to require arbitration; and

  • a requirement that employers have a sexual harassment prevention policy and mandatory annual training program. The bill requires the state Department of Labor, in collaboration with the Division of Human Rights, to promulgate a model sexual harassment prevention policy and training program for employers. Employers will be required to either adopt the model policy and training program or a policy and program that meet or exceed minimum standards set forth in the legislation and the policy and program developed by the state.

Copyright © by Ballard Spahr LLP


About this Author

Meredith Dante, labor and employment lawyer, Ballard Spahr

Meredith S. Dante represents employers across industries including retail, consumer products, hospitality, financial services, technology, life sciences, health care, manufacturing, and higher education in a broad range of labor and employment disputes. She partners with clients to proactively identify issues and devise legal solutions that are specifically tailored to the client's workforce and business needs. She regularly advises clients in matters involving discrimination, whistleblower complaints and retaliation, wage and hour issues, reductions in force, compliance...

Christopher Kelly, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Christopher J. Kelly is an attorney in Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment group. Chris has represented both public and private employers in a broad range of litigated matters, including wage and hour, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblower, breach of contract, unfair competition, and wrongful termination, and employment- and business-related tort claims in both state and federal courts across the country.

Chris has served as lead counsel in a variety of matters and conducted trials to verdict and judgment. He has handled appeals before the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

Chris has significant experience serving the legal needs the public sector, higher education, and health care industries. He also has experience providing day-to-day employment counseling. 

Prior to joining the firm, Chris served as a Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, defending New Jersey public employers against employment-related statutory, constitutional, and tort claims. In addition, he practiced in Los Angeles for six years, initially as a sole practitioner and then as managing partner of a five-attorney firm where he handled California state and federal discrimination and wage and hour matters as well as commercial litigation.

Jessica Federico, attorney, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Minneapolis, MN

Jessica Federico is dedicated to providing advice to employers who are navigating the challenging and ever-changing landscape of employment law. She counsels employers on defense of discrimination claims, wage and hour disputes, employee termination, internal I-9 audits, and filing petitions for employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Prior to law school Jessica worked for several legal services providers in the Twin Cities, assisting immigrants in removal of defense, family based immigration, and humanitarian relief.