The New York State Legislature and New York City Council adopted broad new requirements to combat workplace gender-based harassment. New York State’s new obligations were signed into law on April 12 and take effect at different times over the next 180 days. New York City’s new requirements take effect on April 1, 2019.
New York State
Passed as part of the 2019 budget, New York State adopted the following new requirements:
Mandatory Arbitration – Banned provisions requiring arbitration of sexual harassment claims or limiting an employee’s ability to bring a sexual harassment claim in any forum.
Protections for Non-Employees – Expanded a construction employer’s obligations by making the employer liable for the harassment of a contractor, subcontractor, consultant, or other person providing services pursuant to a contract if that construction employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take action.
Non-Disclosure Agreements – Banned any provision in an agreement preventing the disclosure of the underlying facts and circumstances of a sexual harassment claim unless the provision is the plaintiff’s preference. The law requires that to be effective the non-disclosure provisions must be included in the agreement presented to “all parties,” with the plaintiff having 21 days to consider the agreement and 7 days to revoke acceptance of the agreement.
Sexual Harassment Training and Policy – Directed the New York Department of Labor and the New York State Division of Human Rights to develop a model sexual harassment policy and employee training program. Effective October 8, 2018, every construction employer must adopt the model sexual harassment policy (or a policy which exceeds the model policy) and annually train all employees using the model training program (or a training program which exceeds that model program).
New York City
Under the legislation adopted by the New York City Council, all construction employers that employ 15 or more employees must provide anti-harassment training to all employees and interns within 90 days of work and annually thereafter. The City Commission must develop an online training program meeting the requirements of the law. The training program will be available for use by construction employers without charge.
Construction employers may wish to confer with their human resources and legal professionals to update policies and training programs so as to comply with these laws and to be prepared for issues as they arise after employee training.