New York State, and New York City, stepped up this legislative season and passed several new laws in response to #MeToo, aimed at ferreting out and preventing workplace harassment.
Here is what employers should know:
- “Mandatory arbitration clauses” are now prohibited for sex harassment claims in New York. These provisions require employees to take their claims to arbitration, which is a private forum, rather than filing in court, where records are open to the public. The rationale is that companies will be more proactive in deterring sex harassment knowing that these claims can no longer be hidden from the public through arbitration.
- Non-disclosure or confidentiality provisions are prohibited in agreements where the employee is principally releasing a claim of sex harassment. Again, the objective of the law is to prevent employers from hiding offenders behind a curtain of confidentiality. However, if the employer requests that non-disclosure be included, the employee must be given 21 days to consider before signing and seven days to revoke after signing.
- Anti-Harassment training is no longer just good practice; IT IS THE LAW! The training must be “interactive,” include all employees, and occur annually. This requirement applies to all New York employers, no matter how small.
- For New York City employers, the statute of limitations for filing a sex-based harassment claim with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) has been expanded from one year to three years.
- Finally, NYC employers must have posters (in English and Spanish) displayed in employee break rooms or other common areas, informing employees of their rights and responsibilities with respect to sex harassment. The NYCCHR will be creating a poster.
Our team regularly reviews employers’ anti-harassment policies and procedures, and conducts in-person anti-harassment trainings. If you are uncertain whether your policies and procedures are up-to-date, we can help!