Last year, in the immediate aftermath of the #MeToo movement, both New York State and New York City passed sweeping legislation that sought to provide additional protections for individuals from sexual harassment (see our prior blog posts here). Perhaps most notable was legislation requiring all New York State employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy by October 2018 and to conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training beginning no later than October 2019, among other things. Neither the State nor City legislatures appear to be slowing down – already this year, both have enacted additional worker protections. READ MORE
Late last month, the New York State Department of Labor released model sexual harassment prevention training videos that employers can use to train their employees, available here. While a welcome development, the videos alone do not fully comply with the State’s requirement that sexual harassment prevention training be “interactive” – employers must ensure that employees have the ability to ask questions and receive answers to their questions. The New York City Commission on Human Rights has also provided some new and welcome guidance to employers, releasing FAQs regarding NYC’s new sexual harassment prevention laws, available here. The FAQs primarily address which employers must conduct sexual harassment prevention training and how to calculate an employer’s number of employees for purposes of determining whether the employer is subject to the training requirements. READ MORE
Late last week and in anticipation of the October 9, 2018 deadline for compliance with the statewide sexual harassment prevention mandate (the “Mandate”), New York Labor Law § 201-g, New York State released a model policy, complaint form, and training module. The materials are still in draft form and the State is accepting public comments through September 12, meaning these documents are subject to change. The model policy, complaint form, training module, and FAQs are available here. Several portions of the sample documents exceed the Mandate’s minimum requirements, and some directly conflict with the position of other agencies.
On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act (the “Act”), a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at combating sexual harassment in the workplace and strengthening New York City’s anti-sexual harassment laws. This is the first major legislative initiative undertaken by new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and he explained, “All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, respectful workplace, and this package of legislation sends a strong message to public and private employers that there is no place for sexual harassment in our City.” The bill is subject to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval and he is expected to sign this legislation into law in short order.
There are 11 separate bills included in the Act: three amend the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), three apply to private employers, and the rest apply to City agencies. READ MORE
On March 30, 2018, the New York State Assembly completed passage of the 2018-19 state budget. Undoubtedly spurred by the #MeToo movement, the final budget measure, which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, includes a bill (S. 7507–C/ A. 9507–C), containing several measures aimed at creating safer workplaces free of sexual harassment and abuse. READ MORE
It is now the norm to see passersby glued to their phones as they make their morning trek into work. And when those employees head home, they are often unable to “leave work at the office” as they continue to respond to evening messages, texts, and emails. Recent studies have shown that employees who spend time communicating about work matters and engaged in other work activities outside of working hours are less productive in the office and have a worse quality of sleep. Now, a novel bill introduced before the New York City Council seeks to end that practice by giving workers the ability to pull the plug on work communications during non-work hours.
Since Anita Hill’s testimony in the early 1990s, sexual harassment has become a familiar term. At the federal level, Title VII prohibits harassment, discrimination, and retaliation on the basis of sex and gender, among other things. On the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) expands on the categories of protected classes covered by Title VII but is interpreted by the courts in largely the same manner as Title VII. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), harassment is defined to include verbal harassment (such as derogatory comments), physical harassment (including physical interference with movement), visual harassment (such as derogatory cartoon or drawings), and sexual favors. FEHA prohibits sexual harassment because of a person’s sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, transgender status, pregnancy, and childbirth, breastfeeding, and related medical conditions. Harassment based on the perception of any of these characteristics is also prohibited, and sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire to be considered unlawful. READ MORE
Effective November 26, 2017, retail employees in New York City will be entitled to advance notice of their scheduled shifts, and the practice of “on-call shifts”–where an employee is required to be available to work but not necessarily called to work–will be prohibited. These provisions are part of new “Fair Workweek” legislation aimed at providing “predictable schedules and predictable paychecks” for retail and fast food workers in New York City.
Wage and hour laws have traditionally drawn, or at least attempted to draw, a bright line between employees, who are entitled to the protections of wage and hour and other employment laws and independent contractors, who are not covered by most employment-related statutes. In the growing gig economy, however, some have suggested that there should be a third category of worker – one that has some, but not all, legal protections of an employee but whose relationship is freelance, transient and potentially for multiple entities. In the first-of-its-kind legislation, the New York City Council has passed a bill that provides statutory wage protections for freelance workers. The law awaits signature from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. If signed, the law would become effective 180 days after it is signed and would apply to contracts signed after the effective date.