New York Finalizes Updates to Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy and Training Materials

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On April 11, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the New York State Department of Labor (“NYDOL”) has finalized its updated model sexual harassment prevention policy and training resources.  The model policy provides employers with a template to comply with the 2018 amendments to the New York State Labor Law, which require employers to adopt written sexual harassment prevention policies that meet or exceed the model policy’s requirements.  Pursuant to the New York Labor Law, the State must review and revise the model policy every four (4) years. Employers should ensure compliance with the new model policy and training resources immediately.   

Overall, the new model policy is substantially longer than the original model policy the State implemented in 2018. Some of the more noteworthy changes to the model policy include:

  • Adding a section on bystander intervention with methods employees can use when witnessing discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
  • Clarifying that sexual harassment does not need to be severe or pervasive to be illegal in New York and explaining the broadened standard of harassment, which became law in 2019.
  • Adding a list of examples of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in a variety of workplace scenarios.
  • Emphasizing the importance of understanding gender diversity and identity (including providing definitions of cisgender, transgender, and non-binary persons) and being attune to potential gender identity discrimination in the workplace.
  • Clarifying that intent is not a defense to harassment and discrimination and that it is the impact of the behavior on a person that counts.

The NYDOL also updated its training materials on preventing sexual harassment and discrimination.  The revisions largely reflect those made in the model policy, including new content regarding definitions of gender identity, detailing the methods of bystander intervention, and updating case studies for discussion.  The NYDOL’s website features a new training video and additional resources to help employers comply with the updated model policy.

Employers with any type of operations in New York should review and revise their sexual harassment prevention policies and training materials as soon as possible to ensure they are in compliance with the State’s new guidance.  

As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

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