Earlier this week, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law three bills intended to address and expand sexual harassment protections in New York State. While these laws will have relatively minor implications for private employers, employers should be aware of a few important points.
The first law, which takes effect on July 14, 2022, will establish a toll-free confidential hotline for both public and private sector employees to report complaints of workplace sexual harassment. The hotline will be operated by the New York State Division of Human Rights and is intended to connect complainants with pro bono attorneys. Employers should expect the state to include information regarding the hotline in required labor law posters or other materials on sexual harassment prevention that employers are required to distribute to employees.
The second law, which takes effect immediately, prohibits an employer from disclosing an employee’s personnel files in retaliation for the employee’s participation in any activities protected under the New York State Human Rights Law, including filing a complaint or testifying or assisting in any proceeding. The state attorney general is authorized to investigate and prosecute claims of retaliation. The disclosure of personnel files in the course of commencing or responding to a complaint made with the Division, or a court proceeding, is still permitted.
The third law, which also takes effect immediately, expands the scope of the New York State Human Rights Law to cover the state and all public employers. Individuals will now be able to file complaints of sexual harassment against elected officials and staffers of those elected officials.
We will continue to share any information or guidance as it is released. If you have additional questions about the new laws, please contact any Labor and Employment team member at 585.232.6500 or 716.853.1616.