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New York State Updates Its Model Sexual Harassment Policy and Training Materials

Key takeaways:

  • Changes made to model sexual harassment policies and training materials

  • Employers must continue to train employees upon hire and annually thereafter

  • Employers should carefully review the latest materials and update their policies and training materials accordingly

On April 11, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the release of updated versions of New York State’s sexual harassment model policy and training materials.

Since October 9, 2018, and pursuant to New York Labor Law § 201-g, employers were required to maintain a sexual harassment policy and conduct annual employee training on the same. The law includes a provision requiring that in 2022, and every four years thereafter, the New York Department of Labor (DOL) and New York State Division of Human Rights would evaluate the impact of the current model guidance and policy, and update both as needed. Accordingly, the DOL this year released a proposed model policy on January 12 that had a 30-day public comment period, and has now released the final documents with updated resources.

In addition to a new model policy, New York’s “Combating Sexual Harassment” resource page has been changed to include new toolkits for workers and employers, updated Frequently Asked Questions, as well as a new training slide deck and accompanying script and other assets that businesses can utilize for employee training purposes to ensure compliance. Much of the policy and training materials will look familiar to employers, but there are significant changes. By way of example only, the toll free confidential hotline is referenced, there is discussion on bystander intervention, and there are updated case scenarios (including those in a remote environment).

As a reminder, New York law requires employers to provide all employees with: (1) a sexual harassment and workplace-discrimination prevention policy; (2) annual sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training; and (3) a copy of the policy on paper or by email at the time of hiring and annually during training.

Employers should carefully review the latest materials and update their policies and training materials accordingly. While these materials may be helpful as a starting point, it is a best practice to customize policies and training to each specific organization, providing industry specific examples and the specific information on who at the organization is available to receive complaints of harassment or discrimination. Additionally, while the model policy and training materials mention other protected classifications in short form, employers should consider developing materials that provide more comprehensive information on all protected classifications, instead of a focus on sexual harassment only.

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