New York State recently passed legislation that significantly expanded its definition of unlawful harassment. Here is need-to-know information for employers about the updates to New York’s harassment laws.
What employers are covered that weren’t before?
- As of February 8, 2020, all sizes of employers are covered by all parts of the law (previously, those with fewer than four employees only had to prevent sexual harassment).
What classes are covered?
- Age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, previous filing of a complaint, and domestic violence victim status
What are the extra protections?
- Instead of severe or pervasive, the bar for harassment is now effectively set at “more than a petty slight or annoyance.”
- Domestic workers and third parties (vendors, contractors, consultants, etc.) are now protected from all harassment, not just sexual harassment.
- Just because the employee didn’t complain to the employer doesn’t mean the employer is off the hook (technically this wasn’t the law before, either, but now they are making it crystal clear that lack of reporting is not a defense).
- The employee doesn’t need to have a peer to compare their treatment to when claiming discrimination (technically not the law before, but again they are making it crystal clear that this is not a workable loophole).
- The statute of limitations will be three years rather than one, starting in August 2020.
How will training change?
- The basic requirements for training have not changed at all (e.g., interactivity, examples of harassment, where employees can report).
- For now, the state still only requires sexual harassment training. That may change in the future.
- Training courses will be updated to include changes to who and what is covered by the law as needed. For instance, training that included the severe or pervasive standard would be updated with the new standard. A training that did not include information about employer defenses to a claim, however, would not need that information added.
New notice requirement
- Employers must provide employees with notice upon hire and at each annual training that includes their sexual harassment policy as well as an overview of the material covered in the training; the state will make a model notice available.
- The notice must be in the employee’s primary language if made available by the state. If the state does not offer a translation in the employee’s primary language, English is acceptable.
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