By Cristiana Wilson, SHRM-CP

In response to the current climate of sexual harassment suits, New York State is tightening controls by tasking employers to make annual, mandatory sexual harassment training available to all employees. Until now, sexual harassment training in New York State workplaces was given at the discretion of the employer but when the law goes into effect on October 9, 2018, the training will no longer be optional — employers will be required to provide it to everyone at least once each year.

New York State Mandates Employers to Offer Sexual Harassment Training

If you’re an employer who’s already in the habit of providing these trainings to staff, you’re likely already in compliance when it comes to including the state-mandated requirements. Still, just to be on the safe side, it pays to review your current sexual harassment training to make sure all the essential elements are included.

The elements are basic. Your training must include an explanation of what constitutes sexual harassment with illustrative examples of inappropriate workplace conduct. You’ll also need to provide detailed information on federal, state, and local laws including a description of the legal rights and resources available to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Finally, the training should clearly spell out what victims’ rights are when it comes to remedies and available administrative and judicial avenues that can be used to lodge a formal complaint.

As a companion piece to the training, you’ll also be required to have a formally written prevention policy in place that must be sent to all employees and must contain certain items. In addition to the items that are included in the training (as outlined above), your prevention policy will also need to contain: a complaint form, procedures for timely and confidential complaint investigations, and an anti-retaliation statement that discusses the no tolerance policy your company will uphold should a complainant or someone testifying in a sexual harassment case be retaliated against by any employee.

Even if you have one already, it’s a great idea to take a look at your company’s sexual harassment prevention guidelines and its policies and procedures around these issues. If you don’t have a formally written policy or you haven’t circulated the policies and guidelines to your staff, from now until October is a good-sized window for you to work on establishing these essential pieces and make sure everyone in your organization has a copy and is familiar with what’s contained in the documents.

If you need help assembling your training or prevention policy, New York State has models that you can use.

To be sure all of your bases are truly covered, check with your corporate attorney to have them review your training presentations, policies, and procedures and sign off on them.

Coming Soon: New York City Gets In On The (Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC) Act

Keeping step with the state, New York City is also focusing on this important topic and prepping what will be one of the country’s most stringent anti-sexual harassment laws. Known as the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, it contains many of the same items as the state’s law but also insists that city-based employers with over 15 employees conduct interactive trainings for everyone, including interns. It also has information on bystander intervention and requires anyone in a supervisory position to undergo additional training specific to their role so that they’re versed in the complaint and disciplinary procedures and know how to guide anyone who approaches them with an issue.

Anyone new to the company will need to be trained within the first three months of employment. Employers will also have to keep on file for at least three years both training records and employee-signed acknowledgement forms that they’ve received the training.

The New York City act is still being perfected but is expected to be finalized soon.

For questions on these new laws and how they may impact your organization, please reach out to your corporate legal counsel.

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