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New York State’s Sweeping Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation

New York State’s Sweeping Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation by Sara Wyn Kane {Read in 4 minutes} In response to the #MeToo Movement, New York State and New York City overhauled their sexual harassment policies to give women additional protection in the workplace.

  • It is important that women know they now have additional rights that they did not have before.
  • It is also important that employers know they now have additional responsibilities that they did not have before.

In April 2018, Governor Cuomo signed sweeping anti-sexual harassment legislation into law, which goes into effect October 9th and applies to all employers. The new law requires employers to adopt a prevention plan that not only prohibits sexual harassment but provides examples of unacceptable conduct. The policy has to include information about the federal and state laws, and a standard complaint form.
Required features of New York State’s Updated Sexual Harassment Law:

  • Mandatory training;
  • A procedure for investigations;
  • Informing employees of their rights;
  • Clearly stating that sexual harassment is a form of misconduct; and
  • Clearly stating retaliation against individuals who complain is unlawful.

Arbitration Clause
A hotly debated topic in both the employment field and in other areas of the law, is whether mandatory arbitration is permissible and if so, whether it is fair. This issue may arise for anyone. For example, when someone is starting a new job, they often sign paperwork that says that if there is a problem their only recourse is to arbitrate. This means they are bound by the arbitration clause rather than having the choice to go to court. While this is still a controversial subject, the new legislation states that arbitration can no longer be mandatory in New York when the issue is sexual harassment.
Non-Disclosure Agreements
The new legislation also prohibits non-disclosure agreements. Almost any time an employee settles a case with their current or former employer, the company requires that the employee not disclose the situation and/or the settlement with others. The revisions in the law have changed that and now the balance of power has shifted. It is up to the plaintiff/employee to decide if THEY want confidentiality or not.
Some people do not necessarily wish to advertise that they filed a complaint or lawsuit, while others want to have the freedom to discuss it openly. The new law provides that unless it is the plaintiff’s preference, the employer/company cannot require him or her to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of the settlement. Additionally, the employee has 21 days to consider a confidentiality condition.
Protection is now extended to non-employees. If you are an independent contractor, vendor, or consultant working for a company, you might not have had much protection from discrimination and/or harassment in the past. Now, under the new state law, non-employees are protected from being sexually harassed in the workplace.
New York City Statute
In May 2018, Mayor de Blasio signed a similar statute that impacts NYC employers. Additionally, NYC enacted the following::

  • On May 5, 2018 the Earned Safe & Sick Time Act (ESTA) took effect, requiring employers to pay employees for time due to being the victim of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking, or human trafficking.
  • NYC adds the requirement that companies post an approved poster on sexual harassment along with an information sheet. Samples of these forms can be found on one of the New York City websites. Also, NYC extended the statute of limitations on sexual harassment claims.

Even with these changes, if you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment, do not wait to find out your rights. Please contact an attorney at Valli Kane & Vagnini with any questions.

Sara Wyn Kane


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