NYS combatting Sexual Harassment Logo

In recent years, New York State last changed its workplace sexual harassment laws. For example, New York no longer requires that the harassment be “severe or pervasive” to be legally actionable.

New York also extended the deadline to file a workplace sexual harassment claim from one year to three years; required employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy; mandated annual sexual harassment prevention training; and confirmed that employers may be liable for the sexual harassment of non-employees, like contractors, vendors, and consultants.

On March 16, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law three new bills designed to further combat workplace harassment and discrimination.

Confidential Hotline

The first law establishes a toll-free confidential hotline for public and private sector employees to report workplace sexual harassment complaints. The New York State Division of Human Rights will operate this hotline during regular business hours and will connect complainants with pro bono attorneys. The hotline will comply with attorney ethical rules and attorneys will not be allowed to solicit further representation of any individuals that they advise through the hotline related to the sexual harassment discussed.

Employers can expect the State to include information about the hotline in required labor law posters or other materials on sexual harassment that are to be distributed to employees.

This law takes effect on July 14, 2022.

No Disclosure of Personnel Files in Retaliation

The second law, which is effective immediately, prohibits an employer from disclosing an employee’s personnel files in retaliation for that employee’s participation in activities protected under the New York State Human Rights Law. Specifically, the law provides that:

“Retaliation may include, but is not limited to, disclosing an employee’s personnel files because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden under this article or because he or she has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding under this article, except where such disclosure is made in the course of commencing or responding to a complaint in any proceeding under this article or any other civil or criminal action or other judicial or administrative proceeding as permitted by applicable law.”

The law authorizes the attorney general to investigate and prosecute claims of retaliation.

Expanded Scope of the NYS Human Rights Law

Finally, the third law expands the scope of the New York State Human Rights Law to cover the state and all public employers. This means that individuals can now file complaints of sexual harassment against elected officials and staffers of those elected officials.

This law takes effect immediately.

Tips for Employers

Employers should review their policies and training documents to ensure compliance anytime a new law is introduced. If you have questions about the changes discussed above or any other aspect about preventing workplace harassment, please contact us.

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