New York Releases Minimum Standards for Sexual Harassment Policies

New York Releases Minimum Standards for Sexual Harassment Policies

Sexual harassment in the workplace can lead to staff turnover, a toxic environment and damaged morale.  

This year, instances of sexual harassment and violence, including incidents in the workplace, have been thrust into the spotlight in the wake of the #metoo movement, a viral campaign about sexual violence and harassment.

As an increasing number of employers revisit sexual harassment policies to ensure safe workplaces, the government of New York state established itself as a global leader in prevention, taking measures to reduce and eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Earlier this year, the government passed anti-sexual harassment legislation, which required the New York State Department of Labor to produce a model policy and training program.

In August 2018, the Department of Labor released a draft model policy and training program along with a set of minimum standards. These are a valuable resource for any employer, including those outside the state of New York, that flows down anti-discriminatory requirements to their suppliers.  

Every employer in the state must adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy by October 9, 2018, that meets or exceeds the minimum standards. These include:

  • Prohibiting sexual harassment, consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights.
  • Inclusion of information about the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws.
  • Inclusion of a complaint form.
  • Inclusion of a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.

Employers in the state of New York must now determine if their existing policies meet the minimum standards, and if not, whether they will adopt the minimum standards as written or update their existing program to meet the minimum standards. All employees must receive training, to be repeated annually, on these sexual harassment programs by January 1, 2019.

The draft materials were open for comment until September 12, but with an in-effect date of October 9 fast approaching, companies should plan to quickly implement the necessary changes.

It is important for companies to ensure the risk of sexual harassment is mitigated through their own operations and supply chains, and that appropriate access to remedy is available. The right to a workplace free of sexual harassment is already protected in most corporate supply chain standards — but current policies may be lacking in comparison to the state’s new standards.

By voluntarily adopting and enforcing these new policies and training standards throughout the supply chain, companies can safeguard themselves from legal action and reputational damage should they become subject to inquiries from internal or external stakeholders. Suppliers should be aware of — and actively accept — any changes to the expectations set by their customers.

Companies should distribute a code of conduct to suppliers in such a way that acceptance can be tracked. This code of conduct should include sexual harassment policies and training requirements that align with the minimum standards set out by the state of New York. Assent’s Vendor Management Suite enables companies to efficiently distribute their code of conduct to their suppliers and track acceptance, while the Assent University Classroom provides supplier education on a range of human rights topics and regulations.

To learn more about how Assent can help you manage code of conduct communication to your suppliers, contact