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April 6, 2018

New York State Passes Legislation to Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

On March 12, 2018, the New York State Senate passed legislation that aims to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. In response to the #MeToo movement, this new legislation strives to protect and support all employees, in both the public and private sectors, who would otherwise be unable to bring their claims of sexual harassments against the perpetrator.

Key Provisions

The new legislation establishes the following:

  • Prohibits confidentiality or restrictions on disclosure, in court approved settlement, unless the restrictions are the victim’s preference, made without coercion or intimidation, and the court has considered the potential impact on the public of permitting the confidentiality or restriction;
  • Prohibits public entities from entering into confidentiality agreements unless requested by the victim and accepted by the victim within 21 days;
  • Bans mandatory arbitration sexual harassment claims;
  • Expands protections to include independent contractors and freelance workers who would otherwise be deemed non-employees;
  • Restricts public sector employers from using taxpayer money for resolving sexual harassment claims; and
  • Mandates that contractors doing business with New York State certify that they have sexual harassment policies in place and conducts annual sexual harassment training.

Takeaway for Employers

This new legislations aims to give a voice and empower victims of sexual harassment and to hold those accused of sexual harassment accountable for their actions. Accordingly, employers should take steps to ensure that the workplace environment is free of such hostilities.

In anticipation of the new legislation, employers should review their sexual harassment policies to ensure that employee rights to pursue claims of sexual harassment are not restricted. Employers should also ensure that policies are in place which prevent sexual harassment and hold aggressors accountable.

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Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about this new legislation, or your company’s sexual harassment policies.