Proposed Changes to New York’s Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy | Epstein Becker & Green

Since October 2018, New York state employment law has required employers to adopt written sexual harassment prevention policies, and the NYSDOL has issued a model sexual harassment policy to assist employers in fulfilling their obligations. Now, NYSDOL is proposing major revisions to its model policy that would, among other things, introduce new sections, incorporate requirements from recent legislation, clarify standards, and provide more detail to existing sections.

Key changes in the proposed model policy for employers to be aware of include:

  • An expanded explanation of who the policy applies to – meaning both employees and “covered persons”, including non-employees such as independent contractors, suppliers, gig workers, consultants or anyone providing services in the workplace.
  • In this context, “affected persons” have been added to those encouraged to report harassment.
  • A statement that harassment need not be serious and pervasive to be illegal, in accordance with the New York State Amendment to Legal Standards passed through legislative action in 2019.
  • An expanded discussion of what constitutes sexual harassment, including references to legal language relating to substandard employment conditions, new examples of unlawful discriminatory behavior (including ‘gender stereotyping’), and a discussion of gender diversity. In addition, the policy uses the term “gender” instead of “gender”.
  • An updated “Retaliation” section to reflect recent legislation making public disclosure of personnel files a form of retaliation. The section also emphasizes that an individual is protected from retaliation for having a good faith belief in unlawful harassment, even if the alleged harassment ultimately does not amount to a violation.
  • A new section on “Bystander Intervention” that encourages any employee to report harassment (while supervisors or managers do necessary to).
  • Revised the Sexual Harassment Complaints and Investigations section, adding wording about “sensitivity” when handling complaints, and replacing a reference to a 30-day timeline for completing investigations with “as soon as possible”.
  • The section labeled “Legal Protections and External Remedies” adds the recently created, confidential state sexual harassment hotline and provides that complaints can be submitted to NYS DHR online using a computer or mobile device (rather than just by downloading it). and filling out a form for submission). ).

As with the current Model Policy, employers will have the option of either adopting the language of NYSDOL or using a similar policy once the proposed Model Policy is finalized after the comment period. A tailored policy will continue to be required to meet or exceed the standards set out in the NYSDOL version, meaning all New York City employers will need to reconsider their sexual harassment policies once NYSDOL adopts a final revision of the proposed model policy. No changes to the Minimum Standard Document have been proposed to date.

We will continue to monitor developments, including whether there are any further changes to the proposed model policy before it is approved by NYSDOL.

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