New York’s Sexual Harassment Law Overview

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.

The Phone Interview

After applying to multiple positions and attending networking events, your efforts are finally paying off: you’ve been asked for a phone interview! While this is an exciting first step in the hiring process, it can also be fraught with risks.

Don’t fall into the following traps:

Too Casual

This means in both speech and demeanor. Since you are on the phone likely in a comforting environment to you, it is easy to slip into old habits of casual language as if you were speaking with an old friend or even a longtime coworker. Just because you are not being evaluated in person doesn’t mean the interviewer isn’t picking up on your social cues. Perhaps they are picking up even more so since they only have your voice and language on which to base an opinion.

Make sure you dress professionally as it subconsciously will make you speak and present yourself in a more commanding way. If you feel like you are dressed for a professional environment, you will speak as if you were in one!

Have good posture and use facial expressions as if the interviewer was sitting across from you. It may feel funny at first, but the inflections in your voice will be come through the phone and will make you seem more engaging.

Not Using Your Resources

Since you are not in person, you can have your research and resume laid out in front of you for reference. Don’t forget to glance at your resume to jog your memory of work experiences and sills you can use in conversation. If you have research on the company printed out, bring company news, historical company facts, etc., into the conversation so the interviewer gets the feeling that you are interested in their job, not just any job.

Unprofessional Environment

If you are taking the phone interview at home and have noisy pets, make accommodations for them before the phone rings. Perhaps bring a dog to another floor of the house or make sure the cat has enough food and water prepared.

Don’t have the tv on in the background and limit the possibility of background noise as much as you can. For example, don’t sit next to an outside window in case the neighbor’s landscaper decides to show up.

If you are taking the phone interview at your current office and have ducked into a conference room, make sure it is either formally reserved or the door is shut/ locked so you don’t have fellow employees entering the room. That would not only be uncomfortable for you but for them, as well!

No Follow Up

Even though the prospective company did not host you in person, the interviewer still devoted time out of their day to get to know you, your experience and skills, and decide if you could be a good fit for them. Sending a thank you message is important as it recognizes this time investment and their consideration of you for their company.

If you devote ample preparation time and avoid these pitfalls, you will likely see yourself preparing for the next step in the hiring process: the in person interview!

Lunch Hour Power

In traditional jobs employees are given a lunch break, oftentimes an hour, to eat and recharge. These 60 minutes can look very different person to person. Maybe you like taking the full hour to eat while scrolling the day’s news or a book, or you like to get out of the office with coworkers to get some fresh air and take a walk. Regardless of how you use this hour, it presents a powerful opportunity to not only network within your own company, but to seek out contacts in other companies that may help advance your career.

In House

Is there a manager or director that you always seem to gleam inspiration or knowledge from in meetings? Do you find yourself inwardly thinking that you would love to learn a lot more from them outside the confines of those meetings or work flows? Take advantage of the opportunity your lunch hour gives you and ask this employee to grab a mid-day cup of coffee or bite to eat. Chances are they will accept because people are happy to talk about their own experiences and knowledge with others.

A bit intimidated or nervous? Take a few days to notice their routine and where they usually get their coffee or lunch. Then a simple question of “I was already going to grab lunch at {establishment’s name}, I’d love for you to join me.” Playing to someone’s preferences will always increase your chances for an acceptance.

Then, use the opportunity to learn from them and create a repour that will be beneficial on a professional and personal level. Once you see the valuable connections you are able to make in a relatively short period of time, you will soon find yourself with a packed lunch calendar!

Stone’s Throw Away

Not only are contacts within your own employer beneficial, but is there a vendor that is often used whose office is nearby? Or a fellow company in the industry with whom you have LinkedIn contacts but would love to have actual conversations? Reaching out to these people will offer you the same benefits as forging relationships within your own company, while also enriching your view and knowledge of your industry at large. And, should you find yourself in the intentional or unintentional position of trying to find another job, these contacts will come in handy.

Virtual Connections

If your job isn’t structured in a way where you can leave the office or your office is in an isolated region, seek out lunchtime webinars or online training sessions where you can virtually meet other people in the industry while enriching your skills.

Using the 60 minutes that that are given to you in the middle of the work day to actively connect with coworkers in your company and within the larger industry can be a strategic method to advance your career and forge valuable relationships.

You’re Hired! Now What?

The phrase that every job candidate loves to hear: “you’re hired!” Emotions run strong and all the preparation that was put towards securing the position finally feels validated. However, now is the time to actively transition from having secured the job to starting off on the right foot with your new company. Consider the following:

Appearance

Chances are you had at least one in-person interview, during which time you noticed how the employees dressed. Now is the time to take stock of your wardrobe to be sure you have clothes that match the culture of your new environment. As formal corporate suits and khakis with a polo are completely different office cultures, it is important you meet expectations in the clothing department, especially if you will be interfacing with clients or external visitors.

Bonus: treat yourself to a haircut! Walking in the office on day one with a fresh haircut will give you a confidence boost and after working hard for the position, you’ve earned it!

Training

If you commented during an interview how you would be willing to learn a program or skill, now is a great time to research class offerings or watch a few online tutorials on the subject. Actively trying to improve yourself already will be an impressive quality that your new boss and coworkers will appreciate.

Network

So you’ve done your homework on the company to prepare for the interviews, but now is the perfect time to do research on LinkedIn to figure out team structures and everyone’s experience. If you already have some semblance of faces, names, and job titles, you will be ahead of the game and will feel less intimidated when meeting a lot of people on your first day.

Travel

Taking a dry run of your new commute at the time you would actually be commuting will prove invaluable as you will be able to get an accurate picture of how much time you will need. Traffic patterns, probability of accidents given certain roads or highways and bus or train timetable accuracy are all issues to be conquered ahead of your first day so you don’t leave anything to chance.

These four items will help you get into the right mindset for your new role and company and will alleviate, as much as possible, the first day jitters.