Sexual harassment training is an important part of employee education for any business in New York State. This training complements a business’s sexual harassment policy and fact sheet, which all new employees must receive. Sexual harassment training is important because it helps:
- Employees understand what sexual harassment is and what to do about it
- Employees understand what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable in your workplace
- Create a safe and respectful environment for all employees
- Improve staff morale by ensuring employees feel protected
- Your business comply with federal, state, and local regulations
- Reduce the risk of sexual harassment complaints, lawsuits, and penalties for noncompliance
Legal Requirements for NYS Sexual Harassment Training
Image via Flickr by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet
All employers in New York state must legally provide sexual harassment training for their employees, according to § 201-g of the New York Labor Law. Under this law, businesses of any size must provide sexual harassment training to every person they employ that works in New York state. That includes full- and part-time staff, remote workers, interns, seasonal workers, independent contractors, and freelancers, regardless of their immigration status. Employees can receive their sexual harassment training in person or online. Sexual harassment training must be ongoing, with training sessions occurring at least once a year. All NYS sexual harassment training must:
- Explain what sexual harassment is with a definition consistent with those provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and New York State’s Division of Human Rights
- Give examples of conduct that constitutes sexual harassment
- Inform employees of federal and state laws related to sexual harassment and options for victims
- Inform employees about their rights if they feel they’re sexually harassed
- Inform employees about the company’s procedures for reporting, investigating, and resolving sexual harassment complaints
- Inform supervisors of their conduct requirements and responsibilities regarding sexual harassment
- Be interactive, with questions and feedback from employees encouraged and the instructor asking employees questions
- Be available in the primary language spoken by each employee, if that language is Spanish, Polish, Russian, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Haitian-Creole, or Bengali
The Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights has created downloadable model training materials for employers. Click this link to download sexual harassment training materials and videos from the New York state government website. This page from New York City’s Division of Human Rights website also has online training materials. Employers are also free to develop their own materials which meet or exceed government standards.
Note that while the New York state government provides training videos, simply playing these does not make a training session interactive. Instructors should support videos with question and answer sessions, calls for feedback, and other interactive elements.
As an employer in New York state, you should keep records of all your training sessions and employee participation for three years. These records can prove your compliance and support you if complaints or lawsuits are filed against your business.
Legal Requirements for Sexual Harassment Training in New York City
New York City Human Rights Law spells out some additional requirements for sexual harassment training. If you are operating a business in New York City, your sexual harassment training must meet the state’s legal requirements and must also include information about the following topics:
- Your employees’ right to complain about sexual harassment to the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Unlawful retaliation for reporting alleged sexual harassment cases, using examples
- What witnesses can do if they see someone in their workplace being sexually harassed
- What supervisors and managers can do to prevent sexual harassment occurring, with examples
NYS Sexual Harassment Training Program Best Practices
The best sexual harassment training programs go beyond state requirements for maximum effectiveness. Following these best practice methods can help you develop the best training programs:
- Provide sexual harassment training as soon as possible. As you may be liable for your employee’s action, it’s a good idea to provide sexual harassment training as soon after hiring someone as it’s practically possible. For example, you might include sexual harassment training as part of an induction program for new hires.
- Use a live instructor. While a live instructor is not required, using one is best practice because they can answer questions and provide immediate feedback to participants. Live instructors may appear in person or remotely via the phone or video conferencing. Instructors don’t need certification. However, they should understand sexual harassment legislation and your company policies. They may be company employees or experienced third parties.
- Offer supervisors additional training. Supervisors and managers have extra responsibilities for dealing with sexual harassment complaints. While general employees should understand their supervisor’s responsibilities, they do not need the in-depth knowledge supervisors do. Providing add-on training for supervisors gives them this in-depth knowledge while keeping training relevant and engaging for all staff members.
- Provide training in all main languages. While government legislation insists people that speak certain languages have training materials available in their languages, it’s a good idea to provide training materials in all main languages spoken by your staff, whether you legally need to support their main language or not. You may be liable for the conduct of your employees, so it’s important to make sure they understand all training provided to them.
- Make training materials available to all staff. Whether you’re providing your training programs in person or online, your training materials should be made available to all participants. Providing training materials as handouts or digital resources lets your employees review the information provided in their own time.
- Make training accessible for employees with disabilities. Employees should understand and consider the limitations of employees with disabilities when creating training programs. Closed captioning and audio descriptions for videos and alt-text for images and icons used in online training can make sexual harassment training more accessible.
- Exceed minimum training requirements. Including information that isn’t mandatory, such as essential topics for New York City training if your business is outside this city and any industry-specific information, gives your employees a more comprehensive understanding of sexual harassment.
- Get employees to sign off on their training. It’s a good idea to get employees to sign documents acknowledging they’ve read your sexual harassment policy and participated in training. These signed statements can cover you if sexual harassment complaints arise.
Benefits of Using a Third-Party Training Provider For NYS Sexual Harassment Training
Businesses can handle their own sexual harassment training programs, but there are several benefits to using a third-party provider. These benefits include:
- Proven experience in developing and administering effective training programs that you can trust
- Greater efficiency because third-party providers understand how to deliver relevant training that helps employees retain information
- Guaranteed compliance with all state and federal requirements
- Time-saving, so you and senior staff can focus on regular duties rather than developing and administering training
- Support if you are unsure of any element of the training or record-keeping process
As a small business owner in New York state, you are responsible for providing comprehensive and ongoing sexual harassment training for all your employees. Your training should be engaging and compliant with New York state guidelines. Partnering with Impactly is one of the best ways to deliver the sexual harassment training your business needs, as we tailor our training programs to workplaces and their locations. Visit this page to learn more about Impactly’s programs. For the sexual harassment training your employees need that delivers proven results, contact Impactly using the details on this page.