What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a hot topic within the workplace and most workplaces require all employees to receive some type of training on what it is and how to prevent it. With that being said, what is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment can be described as a tactic where a person receives unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, according to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-harassment). This can include tit-for-tat sexual harassment where someone in a higher position than an employee offers a promotion or advancement in return for sexual favors.
What is New York Doing about Sexual Harassment?
New York passed a bill in April of 2019 that requires all non-governmental employees with fifteen or more employees to have an annual interactive sexual harassment training for all employees, including those in supervisory or management positions. The training must meet interactivity requirements set by New York State. This means with web-based training there must be an interactive component such as asking questions at the end of section or having employees answer questions after completing a section
New York law requires that employers that fall under the law to keep records of and submit proof of the training. New York City law also requires a signature from each employee confirming that they have completed the training. Employers are required to keep these signatures for three years.
In-person interactivity has a presenter ask questions and allowing the employees to ask questions throughout the presentation. One way to ensure that a sexual harassment training is interactive is to have employees fill out a feedback survey.
What Does Training Need to Include?
There are several key components that sexual harassment needs to include such as a legal definition of what constitutes sexual harassment under the NYC Human Rights Law, and a statement on how sexual harassment is considered unlawful discrimination under state and federal law. Training not only needs to include the definition of sexual harassment, but scenarios and examples of when sexual harassment may occur in the workplace.
The training must also include information on bystander intervention. Bystander intervention is if a bystander witnesses a fellow employee he or she is encouraged to reach out and report it to a supervisor. According to NYC Human Rights, bystander education and training can help employees to recognize, speak out, and report sexual harassment (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/stop-sexual-harassment-act.page). Bystanders should be taught that is against the law for someone to seek retaliation (such as termination of employment) for speaking out about sexual harassment.
Termination of employment is not the only form of retaliation, but also demotions, a heavier workload or being transferred. Employees are not allowed to do this under the law and employees should report any suspicions of such actions upper management.
Training also need to include information on how employees can report potential sexual harassment. In New York City, an individual can call 718-722-3131 or fill out an online form, NYC Human Rights (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/stop-sexual-harassment-act.page). If an employee desires quicker results, the best course of action would be to speak with a manager or supervisor and inform them of suspected sexual harassment.
New Poster Requirement
Under the Human Rights Act of New York, an anti-sexual harassment poster and responsibilities poster must be posted in places where employees gather such as break rooms or common areas.This poster should be posted in English and Spanish, and if at all possible, in multiple languages. The Human Right Act also mandates that new employees be provided with an information sheet or booklet on sexual harassment at the time of hire. The sheet on sexual harassment will be created by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
How to Find Out More about the Sexual Harassment Act
There are several ways that a person can go about finding specific instances, rules, and regulations about New York City's laws pertaining to sexual harassment. One is to take an online course from EasyLlama, www.easyllama.com. EasyLlama provides sexual harassment training courses for several states including New York and is works also for mobile workforces.