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New York State Sexual Harassment Requirements: Next Steps

Now that the final sexual harassment guidelines have been released and compliant sexual harassment policies have been distributed to your employees, it’s time to focus on the requirements for the sexual harassment training.

Every New York State employer is required to provide employees who work or will work in New York with sexual harassment prevention training pursuant to Section 201-g of the New York Labor Law. The guidelines read that if an employee works a portion of his or her time in New York State, even if he or she is based in another state, the employee must be trained. The term “a portion” has not been defined by the State.

New York State has provided a model sexual harassment prevention training which is available in several formats. An employer is not required to use the model training offered by the State. However, the employer must ensure that the training they use meets or exceeds the minimum standards.

The training requirements are as follows:

  • be interactive;
  • include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor; 
  • include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment; 
  • include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; 
  • include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints;
  • and include information addressing conduct by supervisors/managers and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors/managers.

Initial Training Requirement

For the initial training requirement, all employees must be trained by October 9, 2019. In subsequent years, employers can base the annual training requirement on the calendar year, fiscal year, or any other date the employer chooses, as long as it is conducted annually and is administered to all employees.

New Hire Requirement

Though employers are relieved that new employees no longer need to be trained within 30 days of their hire date, there is some confusion regarding the new requirement. The State now encourages new employees to be trained “as soon as possible.” Because this is not clearly defined, employers will need to determine what they consider to be both feasible and compliant.

Language Requirements

The guidelines stipulate that employers should provide the training to employees in their spoken language.  The State has translated the finalized policy and training into Spanish, Russian, Polish, Haitian-Creole, Korean, and Italian.   These translations can be found on the New York State Sexual Harassment website.  If the State does not have a template available in the employee’s language, the employer is permitted to provide the employee with the English version. Employers, however, are ultimately liable for the conduct of all of their employees and therefore, the State “strongly encourages” employers to use any means necessary to provide the policy and training in the languages spoken by employees.

Training Requirements for New York State Contractors

For employers who contract with New York State, effective January 1, 2019, every bid made to the state for competitive bidding will have to include a statement confirming that they have implemented a compliant written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention in the workplace and will provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all of its employees.

Contrary to the initial information we received from the New York Division of Human Rights, we have now received clarification that New York state contractors are required to have their employees trained by October 9, 2019 NOT by January 1, 2019.

Employers who have questions regarding the affirmation requirements are encouraged to contact New York’s Division of Human Rights or the entity awarding the contract for additional information.

Interactive Training

Many employers have also asked how the State defines interactive. If the training is web-based, it must ask questions of the employees, which must be answered correctly.  In addition, the training must allow for questions to be submitted and responded to in a timely manner. The term “a timely manner” has not been defined by the State.  Additionally, an interactive training must direct employees as to how they can provide feedback on the training and materials presented. Ultimately, it is important that employers understand that an employee watching a training video or reading a document only, with no interaction or feedback, is NOT considered interactive.

Training Support

HR Works offers both onsite and web-based sexual harassment training that meets New York State’s requirements. Please call (585) 381-8340 or for a quote.

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HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.