Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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Dutchess businesses briefed on change to state sexual harassment laws

Kerbein

POUGHKEEPSIE – Sexual harassment prevention was the topic at this month's Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Wednesday.

Frank Kerbein, director for the Center for Human Resources at the Business Council of New York State, Inc. briefed chamber members of the changes in New York State's sexual harassment laws. Kerbein said several changes were made to the law through the governor’s budget that was signed on April 12 of this year. In what Kerbein describes as the height of the #MeToo Movement, Cuomo used the budget process to address sex-based harassment in the workplace.

Changes include requiring that every employer in New York, regardless of size, is required to adopt a sexual harassment policy. Employers may either adopt the state's model policy or have their own policy created that meets or exceeds the minimum state standards. In addition to having a written policy, employers will be required to conduct interactive training on the policy annually. The law also calls for new hires to be trained on the policy as soon as possible after employment begins.

Kerbein stressed the interactive requirement saying that "simply having employees watch a video or read a handout without interaction between employee and trainer does not meet the minimum standards." The annual training requirement begins on October 9, 2019.

Employers under the change in the law may be held liable for sexual harassment of non-employees such as subcontractors providing services in the workplace. Additionally supervisors may also be held liable if they knew or should have known that harassment was occurring and they failed to stop it. Another change prohibits the use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment unless the complainant agrees in writing to the use.

The new policy also indicates that claims of sexual harassment can be made for incidents that happen outside of the actual workplace.

Sexual orientation, self-identified or perceived sex, gender expression, gender identity and the status of being transgender are also covered under the new policy.

Further sexual harassment policy information can be obtained from New York State at https://www.ny.gov/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace/employers. The DCRCOC will be providing interactive online sexual harassment training that meets the state requirements to members during the first half of 2019.


 


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