Consider Modeling Your Company’s Sexual Harassment Policy after New York State’s Model Sexual Harassment Policy

Last week, New York issued its model sexual harassment policy and trainings aimed at curbing sexual harassment in the workplace.[1] Employers with business operations in New York should be aware of the new rules under New York law and update their sexual harassment policies as needed.  Even companies that do not conduct business operations in New York should be aware of the model policy’s requirements as it may serve as model for similar #MeToo legislation in other states.  Finally, the model policy and training program can serve as helpful guide to companies looking to implement a sexual harassment policy or beef-up an existing policy.

What Does the New York Model Policy Require?

Under the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act every employer is required to adopt a sexual harassment policy. The policy must meet or exceed the minimum standards established by the New York legislature.  The standards require that the policy:

  • prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor 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 for employees to report incidents of sexual harassment[2];
  • 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; and
  • 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.

What Does the New York Model Training Program Require?

In addition to mandating each employer adopt a sexual harassment policy, New York law requires employers to provide sexual harassment training to its employees.  The training must:

  • be interactive;
  • include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  • include examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment;
  • include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment;
  • include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints; and
  • include information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors

New York State’s website has model training documents available for download.

While Georgia has not yet proposed similar legislation to that of New York’s model policy, Georgia employers should consider implementing components of the New York regulations into their own policies.  A comprehensive sexual harassment policy increases workplace safety and provides clear instructions for employees to confidentially complain if they are experiencing harassment of any kind.  In addition, a comprehensive sexual harassment policy is critical to effectively defending sexual harassment litigation.

~ Author: Holly McDaniel, 2018 ELS Extern, Emory University School of Law, 3rd Year Law Student

[1] New York State, Model Sexual Harassment Policy (2018), https://www.ny.gov/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace/employers.

[2] Employers can download the model complaint form on the state’s website and share it with their employees.