Going to work in an environment that is comfortable and free from unwanted or negative comments is important. Regardless of gender, employees deserve to have a safe place to be productive. To this end, beginning on April 1, 2019, New York employers with at least 15 employees must provide sexual harassment training every year. This applies to all employees who work at least 90 days and more than 80 hours per year. Records of the training and who attended must be kept on file for at least 3 years.
This law is called the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act and it went into effect on May 9, 2018 under Mayor de Blasio. The overall goal of enacting annual training and ensuring that NY employers have a sexual harassment policy is to create a work environment that is safe, welcoming and productive for all employees.
Through the training and the individual employer’s policy, employees will be provided knowledge on what constitutes sexual harassment, what to do if an employee observes sexual harassment, and what avenues someone can take if they feel they are a victim of sexual harassment. Case studies and examples may be included in the training to give participants a real feel for different scenarios and what may be considered unwanted or uncomfortable for a fellow employee.
In addition, there is a responsibility of managers, supervisors and the company itself once a sexual harassment claim has been brought to their attention. The key part of this is that the person who felt sexually harassed must say something in order for the process to move forward. Once a company has knowledge of a claim, they have a legal obligation to conduct an investigation.
Resources for employees include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforce anti-discrimination laws at the federal level. Their website is www.eeoc.gov. More detail about the Act itself can be found here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/stop-sexual-harassment-act.page.
A good rule of thumb for all employees is to maintain a high code of conduct for themselves and the people around them. What one person may consider a harmless joke could be deeply offensive to another. Also, if employees become friends outside of the office, they may become more lax in language or demeanor amongst other employees in the office, but it is important to always remember where you are.
Employment law is constantly evolving and changing, and this Act is an important measure to ensure the workplace is productive and comfortable for employees.