It’s crunch time. With one week to go before New York State’s sweeping new sexual harassment prevention laws go into effect, Governor Cuomo’s office has released finalized regulatory documents and guidance.
We’ve already written about the Empire State’s new anti-harassment laws at length on this blog. In case you’ve missed our previous coverage or just returned from a year-long Himalayan retreat, here’s what you need to know: New York is taking a lead in the crusade against workplace misconduct by holding employers to the toughest anti-harassment standards the nation has ever seen. The new laws require all companies to establish a sexual harassment prevention policy and provide employees with sexual harassment prevention training.
New York’s anti-harassment laws follow in the wake of what can only be described as a national reckoning with sexual violence and discrimination. The timing is not lost on legislators: the regulations were signed into law on April 12th, and become effective on October 9th—approximately a year after the #MeToo movement went viral. High-profile allegations of sexual assault, as well as reports of systematic mistreatment of women in the workplace, continue to prevail in the headlines. Last week, for instance, the world watched a historic Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. (The same week also saw Bill Cosby sentenced to prison for sexual assault, along with further developments in the ongoing story of Asia Argento, a #MeToo torchbearer facing allegations of her own.)
In and outside of New York, it’s clear that the reinvigorated conversation about assault and harassment isn’t just a response to current events but to decades of adversity. For many viewers, the Kavanaugh and Ford proceedings brought back memories of Anita Hill, who in 1991 raised sexual harassment allegations against then-Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair—and current Supreme Court Justice—Clarence Thomas. In fact, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul mentioned Hill in a statement about the state’s imminent anti-harassment laws:
“The images of Anita Hill flashed before the nation this week were a stark reminder that for far too long, women have endured workplace harassment. As a rare woman in elected office, I know more can be done to change the culture and create an environment where women can come forward and be believed. That’s what we are doing in New York with these nation-leading initiatives that will ensure the security of victims and a safe environment for all employees in the workplace. These guidelines and training programs will be made available to employers across the state, building on our efforts to strengthen equal opportunity in the workplace.”
To help employers navigate their new responsibilities, New York has released a number of resources, and the latest round looks to be the most comprehensive yet. The materials published on the state’s Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace website on Monday include updates to the following:
- model sexual harassment prevention policy
- model sexual harassment complaint form
- model training
- minimum standards for sexual harassment prevention policies and trainings
- frequently asked questions
One highlight from this new guidance: despite the fact that employees don’t technically need to complete training until Oct 9, 2019, New York recommends that employers don’t procrastinate. Specifically, from the updated FAQ:
“Q3. How soon do new employees need to be trained?
A3. As employers may be liable for the actions of employees immediately upon hire, the State encourages training as soon as possible. Employers should distribute the policy to employees prior to commencing work and should have it posted.”
Once you’ve reviewed New York’s finalized guidance, Compli is here to help. With our Sexual Harassment Prevention Quick Start Program, you can implement a comprehensive harassment prevention initiative in just 2–3 days. Powered by our automated workforce compliance platform, the initiative is ready to roll out to current employees as well as new hires during their first week of employment. Best of all, it remains up-to-date with current and future regulations—anywhere you do business.
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