Beyond this sheer increase in employees who require training, this move 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.
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 requirements to be included in 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 state’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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Effective date of law
|October 9, 2018||April 1, 2019|
When training must occur
|By October 9, 2019. The State encourages training as soon as possible.||After 90 days of initial hire, beginning April 1, 2019|
|All||Employers with 15+ employees|
|All||Employees, including interns, who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year|
|None, as long as training meets or exceeds the minimum standards.||Not specified|
Type of training
|“Interactive” training requires some level of feedback by those being trained. The training may be presented online, and should include as many of the following elements as possible:
• Ask questions of employees as part of the program;
• Accommodate questions asked by employees, with answers provided in a timely manner;
• Require feedback from employees about the training and the materials presented.
Examples of employee participation for online training include:
A live trainer is not required.
|“Interactive” means participatory teaching whereby the trainee is engaged in a trainer-trainee interaction, use of audio-visuals, computer or online
training program or other participatory forms of training as determined by the commission.
However, such “interactive training” is not required to be live or facilitated by an in-person instructor.
|N/A||Employers must keep training records, including a signed employee acknowledgement, for at least three years, and make them available to the authorities for inspection upon request.|
Employees already trained by another employer
|Not specifically addressed, but there’s this:
“If employees have already received training this year, but it did NOT meet all new requirements, employers need only provide supplemental training to ensure all requirements are met.“
|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.|
Employers in other jurisdictions that require training
|N/A||An employer that is required to provide training in more than one jurisdiction can comply with the NYC training mandate if they can prove that the training is completed annually and covers all the NYC-required content.
This means that employers which do business in other cities and states don’t have to retrain the same employees upon transfer to NYC, so long as the prior training complies with the NYC mandate.