Strengthening Protections: NYSDOL Releases Updated Sexual Harassment Model Policy for Employers

In recent years, the issue of workplace sexual harassment has come to the forefront of public discussion, with movements such as Me Too leading to increased awareness and scrutiny. To combat sexual harassment in the workplace, it is crucial for employers to have strong policies in place that clearly outline acceptable behaviors and consequences for harassment.

Under New York State law, employers are required to implement written sexual harassment prevention policies that meet or exceed the minimum standards set forth in Section 201-g of the New York Labor Law. To aid compliance with these laws, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) has developed a Sexual Harassment Model Policy that employers can use as a template.

NYSDOL has updated its Sexual Harassment Model Policy

On April 11, 2023, the NYSDOL finalized updates to the state’s Sexual Harassment Model Policy. These updates were developed in collaboration with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) and followed NYSDOL’s quadrennial obligation to evaluate the impact of the state’s model sexual harassment policy.

The updated model policy includes several key revisions from the prior version, which were proposed in January of 2023. One of the most notable revisions includes additional examples of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation that illustrate how these issues can occur even with employees working remotely and on virtual platforms. The policy also emphasizes that gender-based harassment and discrimination can include conduct beyond sexual contact or sexually suggestive behavior, including stereotyping or treating employees differently based on their identification as cisgender, transgender, or nonbinary.

In addition, the final updated model policy makes one key change from the proposed updates, amending the language regarding reporting harassment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Impact of the Updates

The updated Sexual Harassment Model Policy has significant implications for workplaces across New York state. By providing more specific examples of inappropriate behavior and recognizing gender-based harassment beyond sexual conduct, the policy helps to further clarify what constitutes sexual harassment and makes it easier for employees to report such behavior.

The amended language regarding reporting harassment to the EEOC also helps ensure that employers are meeting their reporting obligations and that employees have access to the appropriate channels for reporting harassment.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s statement

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has issued a statement praising the updates to the Sexual Harassment Model Policy, noting that they signal a commitment to “overhaul New York State’s policies to give New Yorkers the strongest protections against workplace harassment and abuse.”

Implications for New York Employers

In light of the updated Sexual Harassment Model Policy, it is important for all New York employers to review their sexual harassment policies and ensure that they meet the minimum standards outlined in the updated model policy. This may involve revising existing policies, training employees on the new policy, and establishing clear reporting procedures for employees who experience harassment or discrimination.

The NYSDOL’s updates to the Sexual Harassment Model Policy represent an important step towards preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. By providing more specific guidance on what constitutes harassment and discrimination, the new policy helps to create safer and more inclusive workplaces for all employees. For New York employers, it is essential to take note of these updates and take steps to ensure their policies are up to date and in compliance with state law. Only by working together can we create workplaces free from harassment and discrimination.

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