The New NY Anti-Sexual Harassment Law: What Employers Should Know
Additional New York State anti-sexual harassment law protections came into existence in August 2019.
Under the new law, sexual harassment only has to rise above the level of “petty slights or trivial inconveniences,” which is a much lesser burden of proof. This change will make it much easier for victims to come forward and file a lawsuit against employers. By comparison, under the previous law, the plaintiff would have to prove that sexual harassment was “severe or pervasive.”
When Does the New Law Go into Effect?
The law will roll out in three stages during the next 60 days.
Who Does the New Law Affect and How?
The new law amends existing Human Rights Law and includes all public and private employers in New York. Also, the law increases the statute of limitations (time limit to file a lawsuit) from one year to three years.
How Do the Changes Affect Employment Agreements?
Employment agreements can no longer prohibit employees from filing a complaint with a state or local agency, nor can it prevent them from testifying in government investigations. In addition, the law prohibits employers from requiring mandatory arbitration in settlement agreements.
Arguments against the law and that are in favor of employers are that this is unfair because it weakens employers’ affirmative defense. They would incur significant liability for behavior that occurs outside of work hours that they have no way of knowing about.
How Are All Individuals in the Workplace Protected?
The new law extends protection beyond private company or government employees and offers protection to the following people in the workplace:
- Other individuals providing services pursuant to contract
- An employee of such a contractor (contractor, subcontractor, vendor, consultant or other person providing services)
How Does the New Law Affect an Employer’s Liability and Responsibilities?
All employers will need to investigate complaints and take corrective action or face liability for the failure to do so.
The extent of the employer’s control over the harasser in cases involving non-employees is also a consideration when reviewing the case.
In addition, all state contractors when submitting bids for work most also submit certification that written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention in the workplace has been implemented. Contractors must also show that all employees receive annual sexual harassment training.
Stephen Hans & Associates assists employers in complying with employment laws and represents them in employment disputes.