On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act (the “Act”), a package of 11 bills designed to amend the New York City Human Rights Law and New York City Charter to provide greater protections against sexual harassment in the workplace for private employers. The Act is awaiting the signature of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Of note, the passing of the Act coincided with the April 12, 2018 signing by Governor Cuomo of the New York State budget (the “Budget Bill”) which has significant provisions for the prevention of sexual harassment and is now law. The Budget Bill includes measures directed at both private and government employees regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Effective immediately, employers may now be held liable to individuals who are not “employees” but otherwise present in a workplace such as contractors and subcontractors, among others, for sexual harassment under the New York State Human Rights Law.
Under the Act, which would take effect on April 1, 2019, private employers with 15 or more employees (including interns) must conduct anti-sexual harassment interactive training for all employees employed within the city of New York. The Act suggests a number of topics to include in the training such as examples of sexual harassment; an explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination; and a complaint process to name a few. There are also record keeping requirements.
Another noteworthy change under the Budget Bill is that effective July 11, 2018, non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements for claims of sexual harassment are prohibited unless that is the Complainant’s preference. Similarly, confidentiality language can only be included in settlement agreements if that is the Complainant’s preference. The Complainant must be given 21 days to consider whether to accept confidentiality language, and then has 7 days to revoke his or her acceptance. Further, contractual provisions that mandate arbitration for any allegations or claims of sexual harassment are banned, except where inconsistent with federal law.
Effective October 9, 2018 pursuant to the Budget Bill, all employers in New York State must adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy to be distributed in writing to all employees, and conduct annual anti-harassment training. The Budget Bill directs the New York State Department of Labor to work with the New York State Division of Human Rights (“DHR”) to develop both a model policy and training program, which employers may opt to use.
Finally, under the Budget Bill, bidding entities for state contracts must certify that they have implemented a written policy addressing sexual harassment and provide annual sexual harassment training to employees, effective January 1, 2019.
If the Act is signed by Mayor de Blasio, which we believe it will be, employers must familiarize themselves with both New York City and New York State requirements and make sure they are meeting the requirements of both laws. We anticipate that this type of legislation will spread nationwide, and expand to other areas of workplace discrimination.