This past year, as a part of the 2019 state budget the state of New York updated its sexual harassment laws. The new laws require employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy and implement a training program that meets or exceeds the new state requirements by October 9, 2019. But what are the new policy and training requirements and how can you be compliant?
Your Company Must Adopt the New Policy
The policy component of the new sexual harassment laws is relatively simple. The Advanced Continuing Education Association offers a model policy that can be adapted or modified by employers, as long as the modifications meet the minimum requirements. The model policy can be found here. Should an employer choose to adopt or modify this policy, they must simply fill in the blanks highlighted in yellow. Using the model policy streamlines the process of becoming compliant with the new laws and allows you to focus on working on your company’s mission.
For employers who prefer to create their own sexual harassment policies, they must fulfill eight requirements. In order to be compliant with NY State law, custom policies must:
- Prohibit sexual harassment with guidance issued by the Department of Labor.
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct.
- Include a complaint form. (If you do not have a complaint form, you can find one here.)
- Include information about the federal and state provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims, and a statement that there may be local laws that apply.
- Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.
- Inform employees of their rights of redress and all available methods to adjudicate sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially – That’s a fancy way of saying – how is your staff covered in disputes.
- Clearly state that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
- Clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful.
If these requirements are not met, the company’s policy will not be compliant with NY State law. The model policy provided by ACEA covers all of the requirements and assures your company’s compliance.
Whether an employer decides to adopt the model policy, modify it to suit their needs, or create their own policy, the rules for implementation of the policy are the same. By October 9, 2019, a physical or electronic copy of the new policy must be distributed to all employees. Employers are also encouraged to have employees acknowledge their receipt of the policy and post the policy in an easily accessible place for employees.
Your Company Must Train All Employees on Sexual Harassment Prevention
In addition to the new policy, every employer in New York is also required to provide a sexual harassment prevention training course to their employees. All employees must be trained by October 9, 2019 and must also complete the sexual harassment prevention training annually thereafter. Whichever training program is picked by the employer, it must comply with six standards. In order to be compliant, employee training must:
- Be interactive.
- Include an explanation of sexual harassment that is consistent with the guidance issued by the Department of Labor.
- Include examples of unlawful sexual harassment.
- Include information about the federal and state provisions against sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.
- Include information about employees’ rights of redress and all available methods of adjudicating complaints.
- Include information addressing the conduct of supervisors and additional responsibilities of supervisors.
ACEA provides a sexual harassment training that is specifically geared towards those in the healthcare industry. The compliant training can be found here. Using this training provides a quick and easy way to inform your employees about workplace violence and harassment.
Now that the requirements have been covered, let’s take a look at how you can implement the best training available to educate your team. Whether the training will be taken care of in-house or through a third-party, these guidelines will ensure that your company is well equipped to be compliant to the new regulations.
- Costs. When you’re looking at implementing the best training or updating your current systems to meet and exceed these requirements, the first aspect to be mindful of is costs. The state understands that there are costs involved – especially the greater costs involved in live training – so they’re allowing employers to complete it via video or e-learning. The state has put out some sample videos around sexual harassment, but those videos don’t actually fulfill the requirements. Why? For one, unless employees are supervised in-person or interactively quizzed, it can’t be verified who’s really taken the training. Additionally, a video alone is does not meet the requirement of being an interactive training.
- Interactive Training. The regulation requires that your training include an interactive component which is left up to individual employers. You can ask questions to employees as part of the program, accommodate questions asked by employees and provide answers in a timely manner, or require feedback from employees about the training and materials presented. If the course you choose offers continuing education credit, for example, then it will already contain a question and answer mechanism and a way to verify attendance – just make sure it complies with credit standards for both clinicians and other staff.
- Monitor and Guarantee Attendance. Next, employers need to monitor and guarantee attendance. This is more rare, but there’s a course that the Advanced Continuing Education Association has reviewed and approved in which attendance is guaranteed for you. As part of the course, their compliance team chases everyone down, so all you have to do is check the report at the end.
- Healthcare Specific. Finally, training that is specifically built to meet the New York requirements, created by those who work in the New York safety and healthcare industry, and especially is directed towards the healthcare setting is essential. Due to the importance of these issues, an all-inclusive training is is ideal. For example, bullying is a major area of harassment in the world. A lot of us think accept that it is just part of the job, but it’s really important that your staff understands that it shouldn’t be. Doing an all-encompassing training can help shift that mindset and translate to a happier, more engaged workforce.
If these requirements are not met, the company’s training will not be compliant with NY State law. The training for workplace violence and harassment provided by ACEA covers all of the requirements and assures your company’s compliance.
Hopefully this brief overview of the new requirements and advice on how to get the best training for your team was helpful. Aside from the training component, the state has streamlined the process of meeting these requirements by providing a model fill-in-the-blank policy. While the training requirements are straightforward, they are also complex, and there are many factors to consider when picking a training program. If you follow the guidelines above, there should be no problems in ensuring your organization’s compliance.
If you’re looking for a New York-compliant online training for healthcare facilities that fulfills all of the criteria above, check out the ACEA’s Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention Training. It’s one of the only trainings available for the hearing impaired.