The New York State Division of Human Rights (“NYSDHR”) released the final version of the new sexual harassment policy, along with training guidelines, on October 1, 2018 and the new, updated policy took effect on October 9, 2018. The final policy contains some changes from the earlier proposed version, most notable however, is that employers now have until October 9, 2019, to provide employees with the mandated training in accordance with the new policy. Other changes include removal of the “zero tolerance policy” language as it conflicted with federal guidelines on sexual harassment policies and removal of the requirement that new hires receive sexual harassment training within thirty days in favor of encouraging employers to complete new hire training “as soon as possible.” Additional changes to the policy from the proposed policy and required training are listed below:
Sexual Harassment Policy Changes
- Individuals who intentionally make false reports of sexual harassment are not protected from retaliation.
- Sexual harassment investigations do not need to be completed within thirty days but instead must be completed “as soon as possible.”
- Allows for flexibility in investigating as cases may vary on an individual basis.
- Directs the subject of an allegation to not communicate with the complainant.
- A sample PowerPoint presentation with talking points has been included.
- Additional examples and case studies are provided as guidance.
- Clarifies that training may be conducted individually or in groups via in-person or electronic communication, however, it is strongly suggested that all training be completed in the same manner.
- Reiterates that training must be interactive but allows for interaction to take the form of answerable questions or prompts.
- Employees are encouraged to document harassment as it happens in the event they do not want to report it immediately.
The NYSDHR offers a model policy that is available here. The NYSDHR also offers a model training guide here. Employers may elect to develop their own policy, however, it must prohibit sexual harassment in accordance with the new NYSDHR policy, provide examples of prohibited conduct, notify employees of applicable federal and state statutes and remedies available, provide a complaint form, set forth a timely investigative procedure, advise employees of external administrative and judicial remedies, unequivocally state that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct subject to sanctions, and that retaliation is illegal.
Employers have until October 9, 2019, to conduct training in accordance with the new policy, however, the policy itself is effective as of October 9, 2018. Employers are obligated to comply with the new policy and failure to do so may be a violation of employee rights. If you believe you may have been a victim of sexual harassment or feel that your employer is not complying with the new policy requirements, please contact Borrelli & Associates today for a consultation.