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Annual Sexual Harassment Trainings Remain Mandatory for New York City Employers, Even During a Pandemic

Under laws enacted in 2018 in both New York State and New York City, sexual harassment training must be provided on an annual basis. New York City’s law only applies to employers with fifteen or more employees, but the state law covers all employers, including those in the city. This requirement remains in effect, including for employers whose workforces have shifted to remote working. New York City sexual harassment lawyers see claims arising from every conceivable type of workplace, from offices to warehouses to purely virtual spaces. Just because an employee does not have to report to a workplace in person does not mean that they cannot experience unwanted sexual advances or remarks, or other hostile conduct.

The New York State law, found at § 201-g of the New York Labor Law, requires employers to implement sexual harassment prevention policies and to conduct annual sexual harassment training for employees. The state prepared a model policy and training program in 2018. The law requires employers to adopt those, or one that meets or exceeds the minimum standards set by the model policy and training program.

The law requires the state’s model sexual harassment training to be “interactive” and to include four specific points:

  1. An “explanation of sexual harassment” that follows guidelines set by the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR);
  2. Examples of behavior constituting sexual harassment;
  3. Information on state and federal laws that address sexual harassment, along with the remedies available to people who have experienced sexual harassment; and
  4. Information on internal procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating complaints.

An amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) sets similar requirements for annual sexual harassment training. The local law, now codified at N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(30), provides a more detailed definition of “interactive training.” It could involve interaction between the trainer and trainees, either in person or via teleconferencing. Training could also include participatory online computer programs that do not directly involve an instructor. It should consist of more than simply watching a video.

New York City’s law requires sexual harassment training to include the same four elements found in state law. It adds several more points:

  • Employees’ rights to complain to agencies like the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
  • Unlawful retaliation for reporting alleged sexual harassment, with examples;
  • Information on what bystanders who witness ongoing sexual harassment can do to intervene; and
  • Supervisors’ and managers’ responsibilities with regard to prevention, with examples of how they can fulfill these obligations.

The state law required the DHR to produce a model training program by October 9, 2018. Employers had one year from that date to conduct their first sexual harassment training. All employees must have received training in the previous twelve months. New York City’s law required covered employers to conduct training by December 31, 2019, and by December 31 of every subsequent year. Neither law made any exception for remote work or other contingencies arising from 2020’s difficulties.

Phillips & Associates’ skilled and experienced sexual harassment lawyers represent workers in New York City in claims for discrimination and harassment under federal, state, and city law. Please contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

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