A Primer On New Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws

This article describes New York State’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, which became effective on October 9, 2018, and New York City’s Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, which will become effective on April 1, 2019. Both laws apply to cooperative and condominium boards because the boards would be considered representatives of the apartment corporations and condominium associates, which are employers of the building’s staff. Accordingly, the board has to be aware of the new laws and must make certain that the corporation or condominium’s managing agents act in compliance with the laws.

The New York State law requires that the employer have both a written policy and provide employees with annual training for all employers, which includes the members of a cooperative apartment corporation’s board of directors and a condominium association’s board of managers. By October 9, 2018, employers (including cooperative and condominium boards) must implement a written anti-sexual harassment policy that should include the following information: 1. A statement explaining that the employer strictly prohibits sexual harassment. 2. Specific examples of conduct that constitute sexual harassment. 3. Information regarding the statutory provisions that prohibit sexual harassment. 4. An internal complaint procedure that provides how an employee can report incidents of sexual harassment. Employers must also develop a standard complaint form. 5. Information regarding an employee’s rights of redress if they are the victim of sexual harassment. 6. Identification of all available judicial and administrative forums for an employer to file a sexual harassment complaint, which includes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR), and in New York City, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR). 7. A statement that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment or assisting in an investigation. 8. Employers should also require their employees to sign an acknowledgment form that they have received and reviewed the policy, and these forms should be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

Employers must provide annual “interactive” training regarding sexual harassment. The timing of the law suggests that employers must finish their first annual training assessment no later than October 9, 2019. The content of the training will mainly follow the topics that employers must put in their policies under the new legislation. Employers must meet or exceed the training standards contained in the model training module prepared by the New York State Department of Labor. While there is no record-keeping requirement under the New York State law, employers should have all employees sign written acknowledgments and attendance forms. The Act does not specify what fines or penalties, if any, may be imposed on employers in New York State who fail to distribute to all employees a written sexual harassment prevention policy or who fail to hold annual anti-sexual harassment training for employees.

Effective April 1, 2019 employers operating within the City of New York having 15 or more employees will be required to comply with the New York City Act. Like the New York State legislation, this law requires employers to complete annual employee training on sexual harassment. There is no requirement in this law regarding a written policy.

While largely in line with the training requirements of New York State, the city law touches on some additional topics. The New York City training must include: 1. An explanation of sexual harassment and a statement that it is unlawful under the New York City Human Rights Law, as well as state and federal law. 2. A description of sexual harassment using examples, including examples of “quid pro quo” harassment. 3. An explanation of the employers’ internal complaint policy for sexual harassment complaints, which will be an opportunity for employers to review and revise their internal complaint procedures as necessary. 4. An explanation of the complaint process available through administrative forums including contact information for these entities. 5. Information regarding bystander intervention, including an explanation as to what that concept is, and how to engage in bystander intervention. 6. A specific explanation on the responsibilities of managers and supervisors and their role in reporting and preventing sexual harassment, as well as measures that these employees can take to address these complaints. 7. A explanation that employers cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment or assisting in an investigation, along with examples to illustrate acts of retaliation. 8. Employers must administer this training both annually and within 90 days for new hires. Employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year must receive training, regardless of whether they are part-time or full-time. Employers must also obtain signed acknowledgment forms from their employees and maintain those records for three years.

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Stuart Saft
Holland & Knight LLP
31 West 52nd St.
New York, NY 10019


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