New York State and City Enact New Protections Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to shine a spotlight on sexual harassment and gender equality in the workplace, both New York State and New York City have enacted new laws to strengthen protections against and remedies for sexual harassment in the workplace. On April 12, 2018, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the state legislation into law (S-7848A), and on May 9, 2018, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio signed the city legislation into law (The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act). The dates for implementation of each law differ, as set forth below.

New York State

Effective now:

  • Employers may be held liable for their employees’ sexual harassment of non-employees, such as independent contractors, consultants, freelancers, vendors, and others who provide services under a contract in the workplace. This offers new sexual harassment protections to workers in the increasingly prevalent “gig economy,” who are often excluded from laws that protect employees.
  • Employers will be prohibited from including confidentiality provisions in settlement and severance agreements regarding sexual harassment claims, unless the confidentiality is requested by the complaining employee. The employer must give the employee 21 days to consider whether to sign an agreement containing a confidentiality provision and a seven day period to be able to revoke it.
  • Employers will be prohibited from entering into agreements that require workers to arbitrate claims of sexual harassment, unless federal law requires that the claims may be arbitrated.

Effective October 9, 2018:

  • Employers must begin providing annual sexual harassment training for all employees, with the first annual training due before October 9, 2019.
  • Employers must adopt policies to prohibit sexual harassment that are equal to or stronger than those set forth by the New York State Department of Labor.
  • Employers must distribute sexual harassment policy information sheets to employees, including a standard complaint form.

New York City

Effective immediately:

  • The New York City Administrative Code’s provisions on sexual harassment apply to all employers, regardless of how many employees they have.
  • Employees now have three years within which to file their sexual harassment claims with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, rather than the previous one-year statute of limitations.

Effective September 6, 2018:

  • Employers must conspicuously display, in English and Spanish, an anti-sexual harassment poster produced by the New York City Commission on Human Rights informing employees that sexual harassment in breakrooms and common areas is unlawful.

effective April 1, 2019:

  • Employers with 15 or more employees must begin providing annual sexual harassment training for all employees, with the first annual training due before April 1, 2020.