Stop Sexual Harassment Act: Teachings, Trainings, & Timelines

Articles & Publications

August 30, 2019

Come this fall, many New Yorkers may have to keep a specific deadline in mind: by October 9, 2019, all New York City employers with 15 or more employees will have to complete a sexual harassment training.[1] This requirement was issued on April 1, 2019, and it stemmed from the Stop Sexual Harassment Act, which became effective on October 9, 2018.[2] While this law marks a positive change towards combating sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the office, many companies, bosses, and business owners may have questions about how to comply with this act and what to do. Read on for a guide about how to make sure you as an employer cover your bases and abide by the Act timely and efficiently.

What Is the Stop Sexual Harassment Act?

In May 2019, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, a legislative package of 11 bills that is aimed primarily at addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.[3] The act came several months after the rise of the #MeToo movement, and a slew of high-profile sexual assault and sexual harassment cases came to light in the media.[4] Earlier this year, it was revealed that workplace sexual harassment impacts 1 in 10 New York state residents[5] and New York, along with Texas and Florida, filed the most sexual harassment charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state fair employment practice agencies in 2019.[6] The act is aimed at putting a stop to sexual harassment, helping workers understand the signs of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and providing training to employees as to how to behave properly in the workplace. While there are many laws in place in both New York City and the rest of the state[7] to prosecute perpetrators of sexual harassment, this act, which is defined under Local Law 96 of 2018, is proactive rather than retroactive, and aims to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the future through trainings, classes, and teachings.

Which Employers Does the Act Apply To?

The Act applies to all New York City employers with 15 or more employees – the term “employees” applies to short-time or part-time employees[8], independent contractors[9], and even interns[10], if they work more than 80 hours in a calendar year and if they have worked for at least 90 days.[11] If an employee has worked less than 90 days or 80 hours in a calendar year, then they are not subjected to the sexual harassment training requirements.[12] To determine if an employer has at least 15 employees, the company or business owner must determine how many employees it has at any point within the prior calendar year, and if the employer has had at least 15 employees at any point during the year, it will be subjected to the requirements.[13]

What Are the Training Requirements Employers Have To Go Through?

Those subject to the sexual harassment training requirements must undergo this training once per calendar year.[14] Employers have the option of providing their own sexual harassment training, as long as it includes the following elements:

1) An explanation of sexual harassment as a form of unlawful discrimination under local laws/regulations;

2) A statement that sexual harassment is also a form of unlawful discrimination under state and federal laws;

3) Descriptions of what sexual harassment is; utilizing examples;

4) Internal complaint process that is made readily available to employees;

5) Complaint process availability through the commission, New York State division of Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;

6) Prohibition of retaliation including examples;

7) Information concerning bystander invention, including resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention; and

8) Specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees in preventing sexual harassment and retaliation.

Most of the training that is offered to employers can be interactive, web-based, and easy to follow, with video scenarios, quizzes, and assessments.[15] The training does not need to be live or presented by an instructor in person, and it may be presented online, as long as it has interactive features.[16] Employers may use their own training materials, as long as they comply with the above requirements, or they may also use the online training that the New York City Commission on Human Rights provides.[17] The Commission has partnered with the New York State Division of Human Rights as well as the New York State Department of Labor so that New York City-based employers can be sure they are complying with New York State and New York City training mandates.[18]

Where/How Can Employers Satisfy the Training Requirement?

There are a variety of ways employers can complete their mandated sexual harassment training. The training can be done via computer or phone and it takes approximately 45 minutes.[19] At the conclusion of the training, each participant will receive a certificate of completion and in New York City, employers are required to retain a record of employees’ training for three years.[20]

Looking Forward

It is critical for employers to know the ins and outs of what is required of them in terms of preventing sexual harassment. Now, as legislators, lawmakers, and the general public are all working towards creating a safer and more appropriate workplace, it is clear that the responsibility has shifted to employers to make sure they have abided by the act and gone through appropriate training. People behind the act are hoping that by mandating this training, the statistics and numbers regarding instances of workplace sexual harassment will decrease and that people all across the city will understand the scope of appropriate and professional conduct.