In 2019, New York State adopted several provisions that served to provide greater protection to workers against workplace sexual harassment. For the first time, independent contractors, vendors and consultants were covered by the sexual harassment laws to the same extent as employees. Further, the duty of employers to train their employees regarding sexual harassment prevention and implement and distribute specific policies against sexual harassment were strengthened.
Last Wednesday, March 16, 2022, the State further enhanced the laws against sexual and other harassment at work when Governor Hochul signed three new bills into law. The first will establish a toll-free, confidential hotline administered by the New York State Division of Human Rights for workers to report complaints of sexual harassment to pro bono, experienced attorneys to be recruited for that work. The second revises current law to include releasing of an employee’s (or ex-employees) personnel records as a potential example of “retaliatory action” prohibited against those who have complained about unlawful workplace discrimination, including harassment. The third is directed to public employers who will no longer be able to claim that personal staff of officials or judges are not their employees. Now, the state or local municipality at issue will be deemed the direct employee of anyone working in the executive, judicial or legislative branches. As is typical, more specifics on these laws will be released (including, for example, a Department of Labor requirement that the sexual harassment hotline number be included in employer anti-sexual harassment policies), and other bills regarding discrimination and harassment prevention are also pending.
If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact the Underberg & Kessler attorney who regularly handles your legal matters or Paul F. Keneally, the author of this piece, here, or at (585) 258-2882.
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