On April 12, 2018, with the passing of the 2019 New York State budget, Governor Cuomo rolled out new legislation that gave all New York State employers added legal obligations to help combat sexual harassment in the workplace. This was New York’s response to the #MeToo movement, a social effort to expose the unfortunate reality of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, and more broadly, in workplaces across the country. New York’s new legislation includes both guidance on how sexual harassment complaints should be handled (and potentially litigated) and guidance on how employers should attempt to prevent harassment from happening. The prevention efforts include written policy and annual training requirements, as well as deadlines for when New York State employers need to have all of the new guidelines fully implemented.


The Policy

One of the first deadlines New York employers were tasked with meeting was the creation and distribution to employees of a written policy by October 9, 2018. Fortunately, it was confirmed that New York would be producing model policy templates for employers to utilize. The unfortunate part was that the State’s draft policies were in a public comment period until September 12, 2018. After the comment period, the State reviewed the input they received and made some minor changes in order to release final versions by the end of September, thereby leaving employers with a little over a week to create and distribute their policies based on the State’s model. Of course, employers could create or amend their own versions, so long as it met all of the requirements that the State had outlined.

At this point, New York State employers should have written and distributed their policies pursuant to the State’s standards. Part of the policy requirement was to attach a complaint form for employees to use to report incidents of sexual harassment. New York State produced a model complaint form for employers to utilize alongside their model policy. Another major provision for the policy, which is where a lot of employers with existing policies fell short, was to include external remedies for reporting harassment, in addition to in-house procedures. Policies must now reference the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR), and also include a reference that protection may be available at the county, city, or town level. A full list of New York State’s policy requirements, as well as their model forms, can be found here.


The Training

The deadline that most New York State employers are currently focusing on meeting is the October 9, 2019 requirement for sexual harassment prevention training to be completed. For companies that bid on New York State contracts, a training plan needed to be implemented by January 1, 2019. The training must be completed by all employees, including seasonal and temporary workers, it must be interactive (by the State’s definition), and it must be completed on an annual basis. The State released several training templates and videos for employers to take advantage of; however, the State’s video alone would not satisfy its own “interactive” requirement.

Interactivity was defined rather broadly by New York. For web-based training, employees can be asked to answer questions or complete training exercises after each section, or simply be able to submit questions online and expect to receive an answer in a reasonable time frame. For in-person training sessions, the trainer can ask the employees questions, or allow them to ask questions, throughout the presentation. Both web-based and live training programs can satisfy the interactive requirement by asking employees to fill out a survey when the training is complete. Assistance with New York State compliant training options can be found here.


Preparing for What’s Ahead

With 2020 New York State budget negotiations currently underway, businesses across the State can expect potential changes or further responsibilities to be added to the existing sexual harassment prevention legislation. At this point, the best way to prepare is for employers to get their policies in place, develop a training plan, and implement an internal complaint investigation process.


Compliance Timeline

  • April 12, 2018 – New workplace sexual harassment legislation passed in New York State
  • October 9, 2018 – NY employers must create and distribute to employees a written sexual harassment policy
  • January 1, 2019 – Companies that bid on New York State contracts must implement a training plan
  • October 9, 2019 – Employers must complete sexual harassment prevention training


Have questions about compliance? Get in touch with our experienced team today.

 Corinne Goodrich, Compliance Manager

Corinne Goodrich is Bond’s Compliance Manager, responsible for ensuring our clients remain in compliance with the employee benefits laws governed by the Department of Labor and the IRS; she maintains the written plan documents that will allow our clients to pass an audit with either of those agencies. She stays up to date with the ever-changing employee benefits laws and regulations by performing frequent legal research. Corinne graduated magna cum laude from the University at Buffalo in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. Prior to joining the Bond Team, Corinne was a paralegal at a downtown Rochester law firm.


The material in this blog post is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal advice. It is for informational purposes only.