In the last couple of years, legislation has passed that mandates New York City sexual harassment training. Under Local Law 96 of 2018, any employer in New York City with 15 or more employees is obligated to provide and conduct yearly sexual harassment prevention training. There are some differences between New York City and New York State requirements — for example, state legislation applies to all businesses within the borders of the state, no matter how big or small they are, as opposed to the city’s “15 or more” minimum employee requirement.
Who This Legislation Applies To
New York City’s “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” originally applied to every employee, manager, intern, and board member of an organization. This requirement was augmented to include freelancers and independent contractors in January of 2020. Additionally, an employee who works in New York City for at least 90 days and a minimum of 80 hours within a calendar year must complete sexual harassment prevention training, even if that employee isn’t located or rooted in New York City. If they’re based somewhere else and interact with employees in New York City on a regular basis, they must be trained — even if they aren’t regularly in the city.
Contractors who bid to provide services or goods to the state government or any other state agency must confirm, under penalty of perjury and using specified language, that they implement a sexual harassment policy and conduct sexual harassment prevention training for all of their employees, including employees in other states. Needless to say, employers are liable for the actions of consultants, vendors, contractors, and subcontractors, and consequently urged to provide their policy and offer training to any worker providing services at their workplace.
New York City Training Requirements
While both New York City and state require sexual harassment prevention training be “interactive,” each has its own definition of the term. New York City defines interactive training as “participatory teaching whereby the trainee is engaged in trainer-trainee interaction,” and it’s worth noting that online training can qualify. The following are examples of qualifying employee participation:
- Web-based training featuring questions at the conclusion of each content section, for which correct answers are required to continue
- Web-based training that includes a feedback survey for employees to fill out after completing training
- Web-based training providing learners the opportunity to submit questions and receive answers in real-time
- In-person training where presenters ask employees questions and allot time throughout training for employees to ask questions
When it comes to content requirements, the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act requires the materials used to include the following:
- An explanation of sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination under local law
- A description of sexual harassment, with examples
- A statement that sexual harassment is unlawful discrimination under federal and state law
- An internal process by which employees can address and file sexual harassment claims through their employer
- The process by which an employee can address and file a complaint or claim through the New York State Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to include contact information
- A statement regarding the prohibition of retaliation, including examples
- Information regarding bystander intervention, not limited to any and all resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention
- Information outlining managerial and supervisory responsibility regarding sexual harassment prevention and retaliation, and the measures these employees must take to address complaints in an appropriate manner
Under NYC sexual harassment training law, all employers with 15 or more employees are required to:
- Conduct yearly sexual harassment prevention training for all employees
- Train new hires within 90 days of their hire date
- Keep records of all trainings, including signed employee acknowledgment of completed training, for a minimum of three years
- Make records available, upon request, to the Commission for inspection
- Display the Stop Sexual Harassment Act Notice poster (which must be at least 8.5 by 14 inches with a 12 point type minimum) published by the Commission, in a conspicuous location (i.e. employee break rooms and other communal gathering areas) in both English and Spanish
- Distribute a Stop Sexual Harassment Act Factsheet to all individual employees (can be included in an employee handbook)
- Provide each employee with training at least once per year
- Provide fact sheets, policies, and training information in English and an employee’s primary language if that language is Spanish, Korean, Italian, Polish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, or Haitian-Creole
- Government contractors must describe their practices, procedures, and policies regarding the prevention of sexual harassment as part of their reporting requirements.
As mentioned, if an independent contractor works for an employer of 15 or more people, for at least 90 (not necessarily consecutive) days, and 80 hours in a year, they must receive sexual harassment prevention training — anyone with less than 90 days or 80 hours doesn’t require it.
If an independent contractor has received sexual harassment prevention training with a previous employer within the same calendar year, they aren’t required to be trained again if they’re able to provide proof of completion — a single training session may be applied to multiple workplaces.
Regardless of the number of hours they work, independent contractors count toward the 15-employee minimum for New York City sexual harassment training. If an employer has 15 or more employees at any point throughout the current or previous calendar year, their staff is required to receive training. Freelancers, contractors, and employees based in other states are included toward the 15-employee minimum, which is counted concurrently.
The Commission’s Training
Training provided by the Commission meets training requirements for both New York City and state. This means any employer who uses the Commission’s online training program will not need to train their employees twice to meet two separate sets of standards each year. This training provides each employee with a personalized certificate upon completion, therefore multiple employers can easily document and provide proof of training.
It’s worth noting that the Commission doesn’t reserve a record of anyone who’s completed training, so if a certificate is misplaced, the employee will have to complete training a second time. If a name is spelled incorrectly, the certificate will permanently reflect the misspelling.
The Commission’s training is supported by smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and requires Chrome 67 or later, Firefox 66.0.4 or later, or Safari 11.1.1 or later. As it is an employer’s responsibility to provide sexual harassment prevention training, employees can’t be required to pay for any associated data charges, and any training employees are required to engage in outside of regular work hours must be compensated time.
Employee Specific Information
If an employee is never informed about or required to take NYC sexual harassment training in any form, this is a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. Employees can file complaints anonymously by calling the Commission’s infoline at 212-416-0197 or by completing an inquiry form online.
Employees aren’t required to complete sexual harassment training at multiple workplaces over the course of a single year. If an employer requests proof of training, the employee should ask for the certificate of completion from their former employer who provided the training.
Employees are not accountable for ensuring any of the training they receive is in compliance with state or city mandates. If an employee believes their employer isn’t in compliance with the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, they’re encouraged to follow either of the measures mentioned above.
Sexual harassment has a legal definition and consequences, but one of the most important parts of sexual harassment training is an organization’s demonstrated commitment to fair treatment in the workplace. In addition to committing to training and retraining, employers should keep an eye on the Commission’s website for updated fact sheets, posters, and compliance requirements.