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New York Sexual Harassment

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Sexual harassment involves unwelcome conduct that is used as the basis for employment decisions or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. All New York employers must comply with New York’s anti-sexual harassment law. The following chart explains the law and its requirements in detail.

What is Sexual Harassment?Harassment is generally illegal when unwelcome conduct is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision.Effective Oct. 11, 2019, it will be illegal for employers to subject any individual to harassment, regardless of whether the harassment would be considered severe or pervasive. However, to be considered harassment, conduct must be above petty slights or trivial inconveniences from the perspective of a reasonable victim of discrimination.  
What Are the Types of Sexual Harassment?Hostile environment: Generally words, signs, or violence of a sexual nature directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex.Quid pro quo: A person in authority tries to trade job benefits for sexual favors. This can include hiring, promotion, continued employment, or any other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.  
When Are Employers Liable for Sexual Harassment?When it is conducted by an owner or high-level manager.When it is conducted by a lower-level manager or a supervisor, if that supervisor has sufficient control over the victim’s working conditions.When it knew or should have known about an employee’s harassment and was negligent about preventing or stopping it. Notably, any manager’s knowledge will be imputed to the employer.When it, its agents, or its supervisors knew or should have known of the sexual harassment of non-employees in its workplace.   
Must Employers Adopt Policies or Provide Notice to Employees?Yes. All New York employers must adopt either the state’s model sexual harassment prevention policy or one that equals or exceeds the standards of the state policy, and provide it to employees in writing. If English is not the employee’s primary language, the employee should receive the policy in his or her primary language, provided that a model policy is made available by the state in that language.  The policy must be provided to all employees at the time of hiring and at every annual sexual harassment prevention training. In addition, New York City (NYC) employers must post a poster in employee breakrooms or other common areas and distribute an information sheet to employees at the time of hire. Click here to download the required notices. 
Must Employers Provide Sexual Harassment Prevention Training?Yes. By Oct. 9, 2019, and annually thereafter, all New York employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees using either the state’s model training program or one that equals or exceeds the state program. Additionally, NYC employers with 15 or more employees must:Annually conduct training for all employees that slightly differs from the state-required training; andKeep a record of all trainings for at least 3 years.  Notably, an employer with training requirements in multiple jurisdictions complies with NYC law if the NYC requirements are fulfilled in annual employee training.
Is There a Deadline for Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?Workplace sexual harassment claims must be filed within 3 years of the alleged conduct. Other discrimination claims must filed within 1 year.

Special Note: Nondisclosure Agreements

Employers cannot use nondisclosure agreements to prevent the disclosure of the underlying facts and circumstances of a sexual harassment claim, except in certain circumstances when the person bringing the claim requests confidentiality as a condition of a settlement. 

Nondisclosure agreements are void to the extent they prohibit or restrict individuals from: 

  • Initiating, testifying, assisting, complying with a subpoena from, or participating in any manner with an investigation conducted by the appropriate local, state, or federal agency; or 
  • Filing or disclosing any facts necessary to receive unemployment insurance, Medicaid, or other public benefits to which the individual is entitled. 

In addition, beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, nondisclosure agreements related to any future discrimination claim are unenforceable unless the employee or potential employee is notified that the agreement does not prohibit the employee from speaking with: 

  • Law enforcement
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • The state Division of Human Rights
  • A local commission on human rights
  • The employee’s attorney 

Special Note: Mandatory Arbitration

Unless permitted by federal law or a collective bargaining agreement, employers cannot require employees to submit their sexual harassment claims to mandatory arbitration. 

Additional requirements and exceptions to the information above may apply. For more information, please contact the New York State Division of Human Rights or the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Please Note: The state laws summaries featured on this site are for general informational purposes only. In addition to state law, certain municipalities may enact legislation that imposes different requirements. State and local laws change frequently and, as such, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information featured in the State Laws section. For more detailed information regarding state or local laws, please contact your state labor department or the appropriate local government agency.

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