As we previously reported here, the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” expanded the reach of the New York City Human Rights Law in the area of gender-based discrimination, including harassment. Among other things, as of April 1, 2019, the law mandates employers with 15 or more employees (which includes independent contractors) in the previous calendar year to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training to all employees, including managers and supervisors. The law requires employers to train new employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year within 90 days of initial hire. Read all about it here.
On October 17, 2018, the New York City Council passed several bills, referred to as a parental empowerment package, which will likely be signed by the mayor. These bills require employers with 15 or more employees to provide a “lactation space” and “lactation accommodation” for employees who need to express and store breast milk. Specifically, employers will be required to designate a private sanitary place that is not a restroom for purposes of expressing milk. Although since 2008 New York State law has required employers to allow nursing mothers with breaks to express milk, New York City will require a dedicated room for this purpose. In addition to providing a lactation space, which must be in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area, the law will also require that employers provide a refrigerator that is suitable for breast milk storage.
For employers that are unable to designate a room solely for lactation purposes, the law will permit employers to use a room that is also used for other purposes provided that the primary function of the room will be as a lactation space. An employer will be exempt from the requirement of providing a lactation space if the employer can demonstrate that it would pose an undue hardship in the form of “significant expense or operational difficulty.” Nevertheless, the standard for demonstrating an undue hardship would be high and employers would still be required to accommodate the needs of the employee.
The law will go into effect 120 days after the mayor signs it. In the meantime, employers should prepare now to identify a room that qualifies as a lactation space, and revisit their lactation policies, which will be required to conform to the law’s specific requirement. We are available to answer questions on this law, and as always, will keep you posted on developments, including the effective date of the proposed law.
On October 1, 2018, New York State released final documents and resources in connection with its new sexual harassment prevention requirements. Along with the updated guidelines, the deadline to provide a first round of sexual harassment prevention training has been extended from January 1, 2019 to October 9, 2019. Despite that New York State has extended the deadline for providing sexual harassment prevention training, New York City employers must continue to satisfy the requirements of the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, which as previously reported, requires all employers with 15 or more employees to conduct sexual harassment prevention training beginning on April 1, 2019. Read more about it here.
Last week, we addressed the looming sexual harassment notice and training requirements affecting all New York State and New York City employers. We also wrote about the pending issuance of public resources containing model policies and other materials that would comply with the New York State mandates. The day after we posted our blog, New York State published a website – Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, which provides resources to employers and employees on sexual harassment. Among other things, the new site contains:
- A model Statewide Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy, which employers are free to adopt;
- Minimum Standards For Sexual Harassment Prevention Policies for employers that intend to draft their own comprehensive sexual harassment policies;
Both New York State and New York City have passed legislation intended to curtail sexual harassment, while at the same time, expanding accountability for such. These laws impact large and small businesses that operate in the State and/or City. Read all about it here.
In case you missed our discussion in a March 20, 2018 post, the New York City Council introduced a series of bills last month targeting sexual harassment in the workplace — The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act. The City Council enacted the Act on April 11, 2018 and awaits the Mayor’s signature. These amendments make substantial changes to the New York City Human Rights Law in matters involving sexual discrimination, and impose additional obligations on New York City employers, some of which will be effective immediately. Read my and Melissa Federico’s detailed discussion on these amendments in our latest blog post .
The #TimesUp and #MeToo movements continue to be a force of national reckoning over sexual assault and harassment. This month, the New York City Council harnessed the energy from those social movements and transformed it into legislative action by introducing a series of bills aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act is a package of eleven bills that would significantly expand the obligations of many employers to prevent sexual harassment.
Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
Int. 632 would require that all private employers with 15 or more employees to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training. The training would be “interactive”, defined as participatory teaching whereby the trainee is engaged in a trainer-trainee interaction, use of audio-visuals, or other participatory forms of training as determined by the commission.
Apparently believing that employers are not capable of considering employees’ requests for reasonable accommodation on their own, the New York City Council has decided to dictate how those requests should be handled. An amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, which takes effect on October 15, 2018, obligates employers to engage in a “cooperative dialogue” with an employee who might need a reasonable accommodation:
- for religious needs;
- relating to a disability;
Allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against business leaders, politicians and artists, have become a front page staple of newspapers across the country. Many are shocked by the allegations and claim to wonder how they could have stayed secret for so long. Despite the numerous cases of sexual harassment filed each year in courts throughout the country, rendering the allegations a matter of public record, a bipartisan group in Congress is blaming the increased use of nonpublic arbitrations for keeping allegations quiet. As a result, they seek passage of a bill intended to prohibit sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases from being resolved privately in arbitration.
The bill, Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment, would prohibit businesses from enforcing predispute arbitration agreements of sex harassment and discrimination claims covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. A “predispute arbitration agreement” is defined by the bill as “any agreement to arbitrate a dispute that had not yet arisen at the time of the making of the agreement.” It targets arbitration agreements that an employee might be asked to sign as a condition of getting hired or remaining employed. The bill does not seek to eliminate predispute arbitration agreements in connection with other types of discrimination claims.
The bill does not address class action waivers, which increasingly have been included in arbitration agreements and require that claims be asserted individually and not on a class basis. Class action waivers can exist outside the context of arbitration, but they are not addressed in the bill. The bill also does not address the use of confidentiality agreements following the settlement of sexual harassment claims.
The New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) was amended back in May 2017 to prohibit employers and employment agencies from inquiring into the salary history of job applicants. Employers and employment agencies had six months to prepare for that ban, which takes effect on October 31, 2017.
Although we previously covered the amendment in May 2017, a quick summary of its material provisions is in order:
- The salary history inquiry ban applies to all employers and employment agencies, regardless of size, that are hiring job applicants in New York City. This also includes situations where the job is located outside of New York City, although interviews occur in New York City. Consequently, the law affects employment outside of New York City as well.