Effective October 19, 2018, all New York State employers will be required by law to implement a sexual harassment policy within their organizations. This law comes after a tidal wave of sexual harassment allegations that have plagued many American politicians, celebrities, and businessmen.

Governor Cuomo was one of the first to amend New York State’s Human Rights Law, which applies to all employers in the State. The new law also requires all employers to implement substantial sexual harassment training and policies against sexual harassment. As an employer, you must either adopt the State’s model training program and model sexual harassment prevention policy or implement your own training policy that meets or exceeds the standards of the State.

Sexual Harassment shouldn’t be overlooked. A single incident, or even a joke taken the wrong way, could be considered sexual harassment by New York State courts. Employers are strictly held liable if managers or owners harass an employee. In some cases, an employer may be legally liable for harassment by a lower level manager or supervisor as well. If an employer ignores harassment or fails to correct it, they will also be held liable. The implementation of a well-constructed policy is the best way to avoid any form of legal action or negative publicity.

An effective policy acts as your first line of defense from a sexual harassment lawsuit and should state that sexual harassment is not tolerated in the workplace. Strong policies limit an employer’s liability by deterring and preventing sexual harassment. Policies should include processes for investigating allegations and taking prompt corrective action when sexual harassment occurs, and a means for employees to alert management. It is imperative for policies to include a statement banning sexual abuse and provide examples of what constitutes sexual abuse.

Schools are required to provide training that is interactive, and the training should be made available through, including but not limited to, online means. The training must address harassment and discrimination relating to, but not limited to, issues of pregnancy, familial status, pay equity, and sexual harassment.

As almost all districts have a diverse work force, maintaining a safe workplace is essential, and the establishment of a strong policy, along with training, is a key component to ensure the staff can focus on meeting the district’s educational goals.

For more information about the new laws, implementing your own policies, and training tips visit www.bit.ly/2xVRKcm.

This article was also featured in our newsletter The Lesson Plan Vol. 19