New York City Bill Targeting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Signed into Law

As we previously reported, the New York City Council recently passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, which is a package of legislation targeting sexual harassment in the workplace. On May 9, 2018, Mayor de Blasio signed the Act into law, which will, among other mandates, require annual sexual harassment training for certain New York City employees. The new law provides, as follows:

NYCHRL Definition Expanded

Effective Immediately: While the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) generally covers employers with four (4) or more employees, all New York City employers, regardless of the number of individuals they employ, will be subject to the NYCHRL with respect to sexual harassment. Thus, for sexual harassment claims only, the law expands the definition of “employer” to include all New York City businesses and entities that employ at least one individual within New York City.

Statute of Limitations Period Extended for NYC Sexual Harassment Claims

Effectively Immediately: The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act extends the statute of limitations period for sexual harassment claims. Under the NYCHRL, aggrieved individuals have one year from the alleged discriminatory practice to file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights and three (3) years from the alleged incident to file a claim in court. Effective immediately, the new law allows individuals up to three (3) years to file sexual harassment claims with either the City Commission or in court; the statute of limitations period for all other discrimination or harassment claims remains unchanged.

Anti-sexual Harassment Posters

Effective 120 days After the Act Becomes Law: Under the Act, the City Commission must create anti-sexual harassment posters in both English and Spanish, along with an information sheet on sexual harassment.  All employers will be required to display the poster in a conspicuous location where employees gather, and distribute the information sheet to employees at the time of hire. 

Required Interactive Anti-Sexual Harassment Training

Effective April 1, 2019: All private employers with fifteen (15) or more employees in New York City will be required to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment interactive training. The City Commission is charged with creating interactive training programs. Employers can use the model training programs created by the City Commission to satisfy the training requirements set forth in the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, or they can implement their own policies and training programs provided that such policies and programs equal or exceed the minimum standards set by City Commission.
Further, all employees, both part-time and full-time employees, who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year, will be required to receive training 90 days after being hired. For at least three (3) years, employers are required to keep records of the training they conduct including signed employee acknowledgments of such training.

Under the Act, the term “interactive training” means participatory teaching whereby the trainee is engaged in a trainer-trainee interaction, use of audio-visuals, computer or online training program or other participatory forms of training as determined by the commission. However, such “interactive training” is not required to be live or facilitated by an in-person instructor in order to satisfy the provisions of this subdivision. 

The Act provides a non-exhaustive list that annual trainings must cover. The training shall include, but need not be limited to, the following:

  • An explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under local law;
  • A statement that sexual harassment is also a form of unlawful discrimination under state and federal law;
  • A description of what sexual harassment is, using examples;
  • Any internal complaint process available to employees through their employer to address sexual harassment claims;
  • The complaint process available through the commission, the division of human rights and the United States equal employment opportunity commission, including contact information;
  • The prohibition of retaliation and examples thereof;
  • Information concerning bystander intervention, including but not limited to any resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention; and
  • The specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees in the prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation, and measures that such employees may take to appropriately address sexual harassment complaints.

Under the Act, employers will not need to train an employee until after 90 days of employment, nor retrain an employee who has received the required training at another employer within a particular training cycle.  In addition, an employer who is subject to training requirements in multiple jurisdictions may provide proof of compliance with the New York City law, as long as the employer’s sexual harassment training is provided annually and contains the mandated training areas discussed under the law.

Sexual Harassment Information Online

Effective 90 days After the Act Becomes Law: The administrative code of the city of New York is amended by requiring that the Commission post conspicuously on the commission’s website online resources about sexual harassment, including but not limited to:
1. Information that sets forth in simple and understandable terms: 

(a) An explanation that sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under local law;

(b) Specific descriptions and examples of activities which may be sexual harassment;

(c) A description of the commission’s complaint process, and how to contact the commission; 

(d) A list of alternate and additional government agencies for filing complaints about sexual harassment, and the websites for such agencies, to the extent available; 

(e) An explanation that retaliation, including but not limited to retaliation for complaints concerning allegations of sexual harassment, is prohibited and examples of activities which may be retaliation for such complaints; and

(f) Bystander intervention education and the importance of taking action to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

2. An interactive tool describing each step of the complaint process available through the commission, from when a complaint is filed to when a determination is made on such complaint.

Upon signing the bill, Mayor de Blasio announced, “I’m proud to say today, with this legislation, New York City government is standing up. We’re saying very clearly where we stand and what we believe – we will not tolerate harassment or abuse of any kind.”

In addition to the New York City requirements, all New York state employers must comply with the anti-sexual harassment legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 12, 2018, which we reported about in our recent post found here