Spotlight on New York's New Anti-Harassment Laws

by Jessica Collier 17 April 2019

In the U.S., we’re seeing increased action at the state level to prevent harassment at work. New York State recently adopted the strongest sexual harassment prevention regulations the nation has ever seen. If you’re an employer in the Empire State, you’re now required to have a comprehensive prevention policy and training program in place. California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maine already have training mandates, and other states are currently considering legislation that will alter the way employers address sexual harassment.

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What constitutes compliance?

If you’re concerned about what constitutes an acceptable sexual harassment prevention policy in New York, rest assured that there are resources at your disposal. The State Department of Labor and the Division of Human Rights have created a model policy that most New York employers can adopt and implement. And if you already have an existing policy, there are guidelines you can reference to ensure you’re in compliance with the new law.

It’s important to note that, aside from mandating universal sexual harassment prevention policies, the new law requires annual anti-harassment training for every person on your staff. But outdated brochures and tired training videos from the ‘90s will no longer suffice—this training must be interactive and include a form for reporting.

Big changes in the Big Apple

In addition to changes at the state level, New York City is adopting even more stringent anti-harassment laws. The “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” will require harassment prevention training to include information on bystander intervention and to cover the complaint processes available through the City’s Commission on Human Rights, the State Division of Human Rights, and the EEOC.

New York State resources

To provide employers with a simple tool that they can use to quickly comply with new regulations, New York State has released a model complaint form for reporting sexual harassment. Along with the form, they provide the following list of instructions:

If you receive a complaint about alleged sexual harassment, you must follow your sexual harassment prevention policy by investigating the allegations through actions such as:

  • Speaking with the employee
  • Speaking with the alleged harasser
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Collecting and reviewing any related documents
Compliance and beyond: How Spot can help

New York’s model form and instructions are a big step in the right direction, providing out-of-the-box resources for companies that need fast and free solutions in order to be compliant with the new law.

But people-centered leaders who are invested in giving their employees a voice know that traditional tools only get you part of the way there. A form might meet the minimum legal requirements, but it falls short in providing a safe, secure reporting method that also encourages employees to speak up.

New York’s model complaint form, for example, requires the employee who is reporting harassment to give their name, job title, supervisor information, and other identifying data. It also prioritizes gathering that information over helping the employee recount what happened. While existing research indicates that human interaction and fear of retaliation are two of the biggest barriers to reporting, the design of this form requires that employees identify themselves and points to an in-person interview as the next step.

By contrast, if you want to provide an anonymous reporting solution that also helps employees provide a detailed report of harassment or discrimination, Spot might be a good fit for your company. By prompting employees to recount incidents in detail, using AI to ask intelligent follow-up questions, and removing human bias from the intake and follow-up process, the system can help streamline your investigations while preserving employee anonymity.

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In addition to improving intake and facilitating timely, accurate, and frequent reporting, Spot can also get New York employers two steps closer to regulatory compliance. Spot helps you meet new requirements for a policy that includes a complaint form plus a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.

Employers who use Spot gain valuable insight into the issues affecting employee wellbeing and professional development, allowing their HR departments to respond to concerns proactively and efficiently. As part of a harassment and discrimination program in the workplace, Spot can shed light on what’s really happening inside your organization and help you build an inclusive culture where employees feel heard.

If you’re interested in getting to compliance and beyond, get in touch at 833-879-SPOT or hello@talktospot.com.

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