By Bobbie Mae James
After the Me Too Movement was catapulted into public awareness in 2017 amid sexual assault and harassment allegations by female celebrities, sexual harassment has become an immediate, serious concern in both our personal and work lives.
In June 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a report detailing the study of harassment in the workplace. The results were shocking. In 2015, the EEOC received over 28,000 harassment claims for both private and public employers. A majority of this 45% were sex-based claims, and the majority of these claims were due to sexual harassment. The report also stated that at least 25% of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, meaning one in four women. Furthermore, between 87% and 94% of employees who experience sexual harassment do not file a formal complaint. This is not surprising in the least, because it was also reported that 75% of people who reported workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.
These type of statistics inform that sexual harassment in the workplace has not been taken very seriously, and when it does occur, most victims are punished by their employers from speaking on the issue. This hurts both the employee and the employer. The employee can become less productive as a result of the hostile work environment due to the mental, physical and emotional toll sexual harassment can take, and according to the report, employers can lose millions due to allegations of sexual harassment. In 2015, the EEOC recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging sexual harassment claims.
All employees have the right to be protected at work and deserve to feel supported amidst sexual harassment claims. This year, New York State and New York City seek to provide those rights and support to all New York employees.
In 2018, New York State and New York City passed laws designed to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace: the 2019 Budget Act signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on April 12, 2018, and the Local Law 96 of 2018.
The 2019 Budget Act went into effect on October 9, 2018, and requires all New York State employers to conduct annual, interactive sexual harassment prevention training for all employees by October 9, 2019. The Local Law 96 of 2018 went into effect on April 1, 2018 and requires all New York City employers with fifteen (15) or more employees to conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training that complies with both NYS and NYC training laws.
Under NYS guidance, “employees” who must be trained include workers, regardless of immigration status, including exempt and non-exempt employees, part-time workers, seasonal workers, and temporary workers. Under the NYC law, employees and interns who work more than eighty (80) hours in a calendar year and work at least ninety (90) days must be trained. New employees need not receive training until after 90 days of hire. Employers must also provide the training “in the language spoken by their employees.”
Under NYS guidance, employers are not required to maintain copies of training records, but are encouraged to do so. Under NYC law, employers with fifteen (15) or more employees must keep a record of all trainings, and those records must be maintained for three (3) years, and be made available to the New York City Commission on Human Rights upon request.
The Harman Firm provides quality sexual harassment prevention training that more than satisfies the minimum requirements mandated by New York State and New York City law.
At The Harman Firm, we believe every employer should work towards preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, and thereby protect the rights of their employees. If you desire to have your business comply with NYS Law’s training requirements, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.