New York State DOL Publishes Proposed Sexual Harassment Policy for All Employers
The New York State Department of Labor (“NYSDOL”) recently published proposed revisions to its Model Sexual Harassment Policy for All Employers in New York State. The revised document proposes several critical revisions to the model policy that has been in effect since 2018. Should the revisions be adopted, which is expected, employers would be required to update their policy to include the new revisions immediately.
NY State Sexual Harassment Training Requirements Impacted when Revisions are Adopted
All employers in New York are required to conduct sexual harassment training on an annual basis under New York State law (and a separate New York City law). Still, the NYSDOL’s proposed changes only directly impact the policy requirement. One element of the training law is training on the employer’s policy against sexual harassment. Therefore the training component of the law is impacted should the revisions go into effect.
Employers would be wise to implement the proposed model policy elements to their annual training to ensure the education provided goes beyond compliance with the NY State sexual harassment training law. Finally, because the model policy serves as a guide to crafting NY sexual harassment training, it is always good to create or select a training course containing all NY model policy elements.
NYSDOL Proposed Policy Changes Bring the Policy Current with the Changing Workplace
The changes proposed by the NYSDOL largely track societal and law developments during the last five years. Specifically, the NYDOL has recommended the following additions (among other minor changes) be made to the model policy:
- The NYSDOL has included additional examples of sexual harassment, including situations arising from the virtual working environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NYSDOL has recommended including examples of circumstances where harassment can occur while working in virtual platforms and other such environments as video conferences and other online platforms that make up the current state of the hybrid workplace.
- The proposed model policy also recommends clarification on bystander intervention and now includes methods that can be used to combat harassment when witnessed at work.
- Notably, the NYSDOL has recommended the inclusion of language stating the obvious (yet necessary) clarification that the policy against harassment in the workplace is not limited to sexual harassment but applies equally to all forms of discrimination and harassment protected under state, federal, and local laws.
- As gender rights have become a key anti-discrimination protection highlight (as well as a critical component of inclusion programs), the NYSDOL has recommended that the policy specify that harassment claims can include gender stereotyping and discrimination claims can arise when employers treat employees differently based on whether they identify as cisgender, transgender, non-binary, or other.
- The proposed model policy contains language concerning the vital clarification that intent (or lack thereof) is not a defense to claims of harassment and discrimination and includes the language “the impact on the person is what counts.”
- The model policy now includes, among the contact information for victims of harassment, information on the newly created New York State Division of Human Rights hotline for reporting harassment. Therefore, employers should update their policy with language such as that provided by NY State:
- “Employees and individuals who visit a workplace during work may call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-HARASS-3 (1-800-427-2773), Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., to complain and receive counsel and assistance regarding workplace sexual harassment. The hotline is set to be operated by the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR).”
Syntrio is Ahead of the Curve in Developing Enhanced Training for 2023
Syntrio feels the changes proposed by the NYDOL enhance the policy and our currently in-development 2023 New York sexual harassment training courses. We are working to implement the changes to enhance our courseware and ensure that our products remain the industry standard for NY anti-harassment training. Additionally, many of the changes to the New York model sexual harassment policy, such as an emphasis on the virtual workplace and an emphasis on gender identity issues, apply to training courses provided throughout the country. Therefore, Syntrio is evaluating its development to enhance all of our courses’ best and to maintain consistency and compliance across the board.
Syntrio would appreciate the opportunity to speak with a member of your staff to demonstrate how we can partner with you to create a program of training that will meet your organizational needs. Syntrio believes in going beyond mandatory training requirements to include a program of cultural improvement that will not only be well-received by your workforce in their professional lives but will include information that can be taken outside the workplace to improve their overall mental and physical health and social relationships. We look forward to working with you and invite you to contact a staff member today to learn about our exciting new offerings.