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NYC bill would require anti-harassment training

Mandate for businesses with 15 or more workers awaits mayor’s signature

New York City restaurants and other businesses with 15 or more employees would be required to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for all workers, including supervisors and managers, in a bill that is awaiting Mayor Bill De Blasio’s signature.

The “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” a package of 11 bills aimed at addressing workplace issues in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, was passed by the New York City Council April 11.

A representative in the office of council member Laurie Cumbo, the majority leader who introduced the stop sexual harassment act, said she was unsure on the timetable for Mayor Bill De Blasio’s signature.

New York City restaurateurs will also have to meet obligations in the recently passed New York State budget, which included a requirement that employers provide anti-sexual harassment training and called on the state’s labor department and division on human rights to develop a model training program.

“We’re extremely supportive of anti-sexual harassment training,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, in an email, “but we now have questions and concerns about how the city and state plan to reconcile the two separate training requirements they’ve each passed.”

The New York City anti-sexual harassment act calls on the municipality’s commission on human rights to create an online interactive training module for access by employers to help them meet the mandate.

“An employee who has received anti-sexual harassment training at one employer within the required training cycle shall not be required to receive additional anti-sexual harassment training at another employer until the next cycle,” the backers said.

The training must be conducted annually for employees who work 80 or more hours per year on a full or part-time basis in New York City and within 90 days of initial hire.  Employers must obtain from each worker a signed acknowledgment that he or she attended the training, which may be electronic.

Once the bill is signed by the mayor, it will take effect on April 1, 2019.

“The bills confirm that New York City is looking to be a leader as jurisdictions everywhere grapple with combatting sexual harassment in the workplace,” said lawyers for employment law firm Fisher Phillips. “Once signed into law, the Stop Sexual Harassment Act will significantly expand the obligations of New York City employers to prevent sexual harassment.”

Fisher Phillips lawyers said in an alert that New York City employers need to be prepared for the expected approval of the harassment laws.

“You should take stock of your current harassment policies to ensure compliance with existing laws and assess what steps will be necessary to comply with the new legislation,” they advised.

Jennifer Sandberg and Joe Shelton, lawyers in the Atlanta office of Fisher Phillips, late last year offered a five-step plan to help businesses address growing harassment concerns.

“The time is now to examine your organizational culture to ensure that you are not only providing a workplace free of harassment, but also a workplace culture that does not embolden your employees from carrying out unprofessional and hurtful behavior,” Sandberg and Shelton said.

They recommended that employers: 
1) Make sure policies match modern standards.
2) Disseminate policies in a thoughtful way.
3) Train managers to address issues and avoid common mistakes.
4) Investigate any issues promptly.
5) Enforce standards consistently.

“These are challenging times for employers,” Sandberg and Shelton wrote. “You are being asked to reexamine your organizational culture to ensure you are providing a safe and professional working environment for everyone in your service, and it’s not always easy to take an honest look at what has been created. However, going through this exercise will make your organization even stronger.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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