New State Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Laws

New changes to New York workplace laws are a reaction to the #MeToo campaign.  These legal updates increase efforts to combat workplace harassment. Here are some things business owners need to know about, and in some cases, take immediate action, to avoid loss of business opportunities or increased legal liability for non-compliance with these new laws.

  1. If you bid on state contracts in  New York, you will be required to have a written policy addressing sexual harassment prevention in the workplace and provide annual training for your employees.  State agencies can optionally extend this requirement to all service and vendor contracts, even in non-bid situations. 
  2. Mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts, employment agreements and personnel policies cannot apply to sexual harassment claims. 
  3. Employers settling sexual harassment claims can’t require gag orders or confidentiality provisions unless the employee wants the claim and settlement to remain confidential. 
  4. The New York Department of Law will create and publish a model sexual harassment prevention guide and policy.  All employers will be required to establish a policy that meets or exceeds these minimum standards. 
  5. Sexual harassment protection will extend to not just employees, but also independent contractors working at the job site. 
  6. Public employees found guilty of intentional wrong-doing and sexual harassment must reimburse the public for a pro rata share of damage awards. 

Take this opportunity to review and update your workplace policies to stay in compliance.  Those with payroll companies should check to see if any resources are available to assist. Employment law attorneys can also guide employers on these workplace issues.