Late last month, we previewed our upcoming series of blog posts discussing Employee Handbooks – What’s New and Why Does it Matter? If you happened to read that post, then you know we introduced the topics for parts one through six of our handbook series. We will now embark on part one of our journey to the land of employee handbooks. This journey will have several other stops along the way, but for now our topic is anti-harassment policies and training in the #MeToo era.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a number of states are considering legislation that would limit an employer’s ability to use non-disclosure agreements (“NDAs”) when settling sexual harassment claims. New York was the first state to enact such legislation, which was passed as part of a wide-ranging budget bill that takes effect July 11, 2018. New York’s law bans non-disclosure provisions in settlements of claims involving sexual harassment allegations, unless confidentiality is the “complainant’s preference,” provided some onerous procedures are complied with. Washington State passed a similar law. Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania are also considering legislation to restrict the use of NDAs.
On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation referred to as the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” (“NYC Act”) which, if passed, will require covered New York City employers to, among other things, provide annual anti-sexual harassment training to employees. The legislation now awaits the signature of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York City follows on the heels of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing the Budget Bill, which contained a new state law (“NY State Act”) requiring covered employers to provide annual anti-sexual harassment training to employees as of October 9, 2018. For a more comprehensive discussion about the NYC Act and NY State Act, please see our LaborSphere blog. Also, employers will be receiving more guidance regarding what constitutes compliant training programs as New York City’s legislation, if passed, directs the NYC Human Rights Commission to develop an online interactive module that can be used to satisfy the law’s requirements. In New York, the Commissioner of Labor and the New York State Human Rights Division are jointly compelled to create a model sexual harassment training program.