The recent New York sexual harassment prevention training mandates from New York City and State require training for both managers and employees. This makes New York the largest state in the U.S. to do so.

Beyond this sheer increase in employees who require training, New York’s sexual harassment mandate represents a significant change in approach: from sexual harassment prevention as a management-only initiative to one that joins policy, leadership buy-in, and employee education to create workplace cultures intolerant of harassment.

These legislative requirements have given local businesses a choice: Purchase training content, or create their own based on content guidelines and models from regulators (Note: Only New York State has so far issued their model training, which is currently in draft form). For those interested in creating their own training, we’ve delved into both laws to collect the requirements and considerations necessary to complete the task.

No two sexual harassment prevention laws are the same.

Before diving into details of both New York City and New York State’s requirements for employers, it’s essential for HR and compliance professionals to understand which law to comply with.

Thankfully, it’s not complex. New York City’s statute applies to all businesses with 15 or more employees while the state’s rules cover city businesses with fewer than 15 employees, and all other businesses within the state’s borders. Additionally, this includes the employees of all companies bidding on New York State contracts, regardless of the state in which they work.

For those looking to understand the rules unrelated to training content, see the table at this posts’ end.

New York’s sexual harassment prevention training mandate format requirements.

Both New York State and New York City require training to be “interactive.” Interactive, however, is defined differently. New York City only defines interactive as “participatory,” and specifically notes that online training can qualify. Those under New York State’s guidelines are given more direction, giving the following examples of employee participation:

  • Web-based training that features questions at the end of a subject-matter section, in which answering correctly is required to progress
  • Web-based training that allows users to submit questions and receive an immediate or “timely” answer
  • Web-based training that presents a learner survey to employees after they complete training materials
  • Live or in-person training where those who present ask employees questions, or make time throughout presenting to allow for questions

New York State additionally indicated that training that merely involves watching a video or reading documents—without any elements of feedback or participation—isn’t interactive.

Content guidelines from New York City and New York State.

Both New York State and New York City have a great deal of specific sexual harassment training requirements to be included in the training material. Typically, New York City’s guidelines require a greater degree of specificity.

Any organization under New York State’s guidelines looking to create their own training content can look to the New Yorks’s sexual harassment prevention training model. Additionally, the state has provided case studies that use realistic workplace scenarios to illustrate prevention practices and concepts (Note: The state has also provided a model sexual harassment policy, and a model sexual harassment complaint form).

Whether those seeking to use this model, additional requirements have been outlined by New York State, which we’ll delve into below. Those not seeking to use this model can skip ahead to the content requirements, otherwise, New York State model-dependent programs must contain the following elements:

  • Training is required to be available in the “language spoken by their employees”
  • New employees need to complete training no later than 30 calendar days after starting
  • The model should be altered to reflect the specifics of the organization and/or industry, including names, offices and contact information of those within the company who are to receive harassment complaints
  • Training must be distributed in a consistent manner through each company office

Required statements and explanations.

New York City’s legislation requires that training must state that sexual harassment is unlawful discrimination under city, state, and federal law. Both city and state guidelines require an explanation of sexual harassment that makes use of examples, (the state also requires the explanation be consistent with state-provided guidance). Additionally, the state requires learners to be informed of statewide and federal statutes pertaining to sexual harassment, in addition to available remedies for victims.

Training must teach how to report incidents within the workplace.

For employers outside of New York City, training content is required to explain employees’ rights of redress, in addition to providing guidance for employees seeking to report incidents. City-level guidelines go a step further, mandating that employers outline how employees can report within the workplace, in addition to the claim filing process of the New York State Division of Human Rights, the EEOC, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights (Contact information for each institution should be provided as well).

Retaliation.

Those falling under the state’s guidelines aren’t required to address retaliation in their training (though they outline policy requirements), however city-specific rules delineate that training note the illegality of retaliatory action (pursuant to subdivision 7 of section 8-107), provide examples of retaliation, and show examples of protected activity protected under the retaliation ban.

Bystander intervention

Only New York City’s mandate specifies that training must inform learners of the practice of bystander intervention. In addition to defining the underlying concept, businesses must also to provide methods for learners to intervene should they witness harassment in the workplace.

Management responsibility.

Finally, New York City requirements detail that training outline responsibilities managers have to prevent sexual harassment and retaliation, and methods of addressing harassment complaints. State guidelines require training to address the responsibilities managers have in approaching sexual harassment complaints and supervisor conduct.

Additional requirements.

Both New York State and New York City law requires every employer to provide all employees with sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis. Future regulations may clarify this, as well as other aspects of the training mandates that remain open-ended.

To help sort out the differences between the two laws, we’ve included a comparison table. Most of the below information is from the respective state statute or city ordinance. I’ve provided an extra in-cell hyperlink if I got the information from a source other than the law itself.