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New York City Department of Education Fails Miserably on Sexual Harassment Training

New York City Department of Education Fails Miserably on Sexual Harassment Training

According to the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Annual Report on Compliance with Anti-Sexual Harassment Training Requirements, only 62% of NYC Department of Education employees completed their mandatory sexual harassment training requirement in 2022. This figure was the lowest among the roughly 100 City agencies surveyed and well below the still-abysmal 79% citywide completion rate (although many agencies did achieve 100% compliance). Other agencies with poor completion rates include the Department of Small Business Services (66%), the Department of Correction (72%), and the Bronx County Public Administrator (14% of only seven employees). Important to note the Department of Education has 142,000 employees, which means a massive 46,800 employees failed to take mandatory sexual harassment training in 2022.

The poor Department of Education harassment training completion rate comes at the wrong time for the agency. In 2020, the Department settled a lawsuit brought by a group of middle school students who claimed they had been raped (among other transgressions). The Department has also faced lawsuits from high school students and employees at the state level and places itself at risk for further litigation given the legally mandated training that has been ignored on a widespread basis.

Training laws are not only more common, but penalties can be severe.

Mandatory training laws can only have an impact where significant penalties are attached. According to the NYC law, civil penalties of “up to $250,000” can be imposed for willful law violations. However, it is rare to hear that significant monetary fines are assessed, and even rare that a state will find the necessary willfulness to impose such significant penalties. Often, employers are told to complete the training, provide records, and are allowed to continue operating as if the violation did not occur. This may change in some jurisdictions, as Chicago has made clear its plans to monitor and enforce compliance with (including fines) its newly enacted law. But it remains to be seen what penalty (if any) will be imposed on the New York City agencies with poor compliance rates, as revealed by a survey conducted by one of the City’s agencies.

Millions of employees are now subject to harassment training requirements.

Employers in at least seven states, multiple territories, and some municipalities must conduct anti-harassment training. Add the numerous states with written recommendations or case laws prescribing the importance of training, and millions of employees are subject to mandatory or recommended harassment training. At this point, it is an apparent failure if an organization of any size is not providing education to its workforce on these critical topics, and the fact news such as that in NYC is still coming out is disturbing. While many employers see training as a burden and productivity drain, it does not have to be that way.

Syntrio can help your organization meet its compliance goals.

Syntrio has developed engaging and interactive e-learning modules that help our partners comply with mandatory laws in a way that provides the learner with information that can be used in and out of work. Going beyond the requirements of the law and into concepts such as workplace civility, respect, and inclusivity, Syntrio’s industry-leading products will allow your workforce to learn the mandatory topics and take home helpful information that can benefit them away from work. We look forward to speaking with a member of your staff soon to show you how we can assist you in reducing the potential for harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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