Seeking to address several open issues in New York’s sexual harassment laws, Governor Hochul has signed a package of legislation strengthening the state’s antiharassment initiative.
The legislation consists of three separate bills, two of which are relevant for private employers:
- S.812B/A.2035B – Confidential Hotline for Complaints of Workplace Sexual Harassment
- This amends section 295 of the NYSHRL and establishes a toll-free confidential hotline, operated by the N.Y. State Division of Human Rights to provide counsel and assistance to individuals who have workplace sexual harassment complaints. Under this legislation, the Division, in conjunction with pro bono legal services organizations, will recruit pro bono attorneys who are experienced in providing assistance in sexual harassment matters to participate in the hotline. This takes effect on or about July 14, 2022.
- S.5870/A.7101 – Release of Personnel Records Potentially as a Retaliatory Action
- Seemingly in response to an allegation lobed at New York’s previous governor and his administration by a former state employee, this amends the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) to expand the scope of the definition of a retaliatory actions under the law. If an employee engages in protected activity and the employer thereafter discloses the employee’s personnel files in an attempt to discredit the employee, such disclosure could be considered retaliatory. Further, it provides that the attorney general can commence an action in court if the attorney general opines that the employer has/intends to violate this provision. This amendment takes effect immediately.
The final bill applies to public employers:
- S.3395A/A.2483B – Includes State and Public Employers as Subject to the NYSHRL
- This closes a “loophole” and amends the definition of “employer” under the NYSHRL to include New York state itself and other municipalities/political subdivisions. Under the legislation, said governmental employers will be deemed an “employer” under the NYSHRL. This includes elected officials, persons serving in any judicial capacity, and individuals serving on the staff of an elected official. This amendment takes effect immediately.
Please speak with your Jackson Lewis attorney regarding preparatory steps that can be taken to ensure compliance with these new legal requirements in New York.