On August 12, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the legislation that was passed by the New York State Assembly and Senate on June 19, 2019, making sweeping changes to the New York Human Rights Law. We previously posted a summary of the significant amendments to the Human Rights Law and the potential impact that these amendments could have on the litigation of discrimination and harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights and in court. The legislation does not apply retroactively, so only future claims under the Human Rights Law will be affected.
New York State has mandated that sexual harassment training be conducted for all employees, in an interactive manner, on an annual basis. The deadline for completing the training for the current year is October 9.
On June 19, 2019, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed legislation that makes sweeping changes to the New York Human Rights Law. This legislation will have a significant impact on the litigation of discrimination and harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights and in court. It is expected that Governor Cuomo will sign the legislation soon. The legislation does not apply retroactively, so only future claims under the Human Rights Law will be affected.
For those of you old enough to remember (and young enough to search YouTube), when Saturday Night Live was in its early heyday, one of its most popular skits was “Point/Counterpoint” starring Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. During this satire on news commentary, Mr. Aykroyd would start his “counterpoint” with “Jane, you ignorant slut,” a phrase that drew laughs in the 70s, but may not be so well received -- even in jest -- today. And, as we will see from a recent court decision discussed below, when sophomoric name-calling leads to the actual spread of rumors in the workplace, liability for sexual harassment can attach.
On October 9, 2018, the State University of New York (“SUNY”) Board of Trustees adopted a new resolution imposing new policy requirements with regard to consensual or amorous relationships among faculty, staff, and students. The new SUNY policy requirements come in light of the recent New York State sexual harassment prevention policy and training requirements and guidelines. This system-wide policy now requires that all SUNY campuses develop and disseminate a “Sexual and Romantic Relationship Policy” to their respective campus communities on or before March 1, 2019. The new policy requirements apply to all SUNY campuses, including all state-operated campuses, statutory colleges, and community colleges.
On October 1, the New York State Division of Human Rights issued its final model sexual harassment policy and training guidelines to assist employers in complying with the new sexual harassment legislation that will become effective October 9, 2018. One piece of good news for employers is that the Division's final training guidelines no longer require that employers train all employees by January 1, 2019, as the Division initially proposed. Instead, according to the FAQs, employers will have until October 9, 2019 -- a full 12 months from the effective date of the legislation -- to complete the training for all employees. In addition, the Division's final training guidelines no longer require that new employees complete the sexual harassment training within 30 calendar days of starting their job. Instead, the Division's guidelines simply encourage employers to train their new employees "as soon as possible" after beginning employment.
A recent decision from the New York Appellate Division is a clarion call to employers in New York City of the legal risks they face for workplace harassment claims and the need for diligence in their harassment training and prevention.
The unveiling of New York State’s 2019 budget made it clear that the state has maintained its focus on curbing sexual harassment in the workplace. Included in the legislation, which was delivered to the Governor on April 2, 2018, are numerous new requirements impacting both private and public employers.
The "Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for the fiscal year 2018" a.k.a. the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the "Tax Act") will, among other things, likely make negotiations in connection with sexual harassment or sexual abuse claims more difficult, and settlements for such claims more expensive for employers.