Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the New York State Department of Labor will update its nation-leading sexual harassment prevention policy. The Department is inviting New Yorkers to provide input to further strengthen workplace protections. This builds on the Governor’s ongoing efforts to improve transparency and increase accountability in the workforce.
“The moment I took office, I vowed to make the workplace safer, more respectful, and more collaborative across New York State,” Governor Hochul said. “From overhauling anti-harassment training for state employees to signing a package of legislation to address workplace harassment and discrimination, we have taken significant action to strengthen protections against discrimination and harassment. Now, I am encouraging all New Yorkers to provide their input to protect workers and help ensure that New York continues to lead the nation on harassment prevention.”
The current sexual harassment prevention policy was adopted in 2018 and must be reviewed every four years per legislation. As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to shift the labor landscape, the Governor and the New York State Department of Labor are reviewing the current policy to ensure that all New Yorkers have the fullest protections possible while on the job.
Now through September 20, 2022, New Yorkers can submit feedback through this secure form. NYSDOL is also launching a multi-platform public awareness campaign, including this video, to encourage New Yorkers to participate in this important process.
NYSDOL will also update the current model sexual harassment training videos, incorporating remote work, and include the recent amendment to the Human Rights Law expanding protections to public employees, including staff of elected officials and the judiciary, from sexual harassment in the workplace.
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “The pandemic has changed the workplace forever. With more New Yorkers working remotely, or in many cases working a hybrid model, it is important that we carefully examine the current sexual harassment policies to ensure that all New Yorkers, no matter where they operate, continue to receive the fullest protections while on the job in any environment. I encourage all New Yorkers to participate in this inclusive process.”
Division of Human Rights Commissioner Maria Imperial said, “I applaud this vital effort from NYSDOL. While New York State has made significant progress in rooting out the scourge of sexual harassment, there is still more to be done. We encourage every employee and employer to tell us how we can build better, more equitable, and inclusive workplaces free from sexual harassment across our state.”
Every employer in the New York State is required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. An employer that does not adopt the NYSDOL’s model policy must ensure that the policy that they adopt meets or exceeds the following minimum standards, which must:
- Prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by NYSDOL in consultation with the Division of Human Rights.
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment.
- Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws.
- Include a complaint form.
- Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.
- Inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially.
- Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
- Clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.
Governor Hochul encourages New Yorkers to know their rights about sexual harassment in the workplace. New York State has several online resources for employees and employers, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions page to help guide New Yorkers about the steps they can take if they have been victimized at the workplace.