Original Date: August 13, 2018
On April 30, 2018, I wrote an article updating everyone on the upcoming requirements for New York State Sexual Harassment laws and annual training requirements. The New York State Department of Labor and Department of Human Rights is now in the process of developing and rolling out a model training program, which can be used by organizations to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The material format is mandatory to use. However, we can implement training that exceeds the minimum requirement of the upcoming state training material. The DOL and DHS have yet to release the material for use by the public. Stay tuned.
Below are the 8 considerations for mandatory training requirements:
- Annual Training: All New York State employers must provide sexual harassment training to every employee on an annual basis. What about new hires after the training? We need to determine what to do for these employees, new hire or those who miss. Continue to watch for additional guidance from state agencies on this area.
- Training Requirements: From my research on this subject, all employees and volunteers should also go through the training and understand the policy/complaint processes. We should also include boards of directors in the training mechanism. Management training should be separate from the employees to ensure discussion.
- Recommend Tools to Utilize: This is a mandatory training, as employers we need to ensure our process for documentation is followed and legal. The following are recommendations; a training sign-in and sign-out sheet (sign-out is something not all organizations do, this is one I will be implementing in future trainings), training materials (PPT slides, workbooks, scenario’s, etc.), a video recording of the training session, pictures of the sessions (documenting who was there) and certificates of completion (signoff by the trainer). Certificates of completion are used at many of our local colleges.
- Prerecorded versus Interactive: I have had this question come up many times over the last 3-4 months. Can we do an online version of the training and have employee’s signoff through a pre-recorded training? New York State is requiring an interactive training. By interactive it means, employees can have discussions and ask questions. Can we do this through a webcast? The answer is unclear at this point, interactive might suggest in person training only. Continue to watch for updates on this area, as many of us have employees working across the state. Do not assume a webinar will work at this time. The general guidance currently, is in person training.
- Training Inclusion: The training must include an explanation of sexual harassment, examples of unlawful sexual harassment, federal state and local laws that have direct impact on sexual harassment claims and information available forums for making a complaint. Yes, legal information is required during this training.
- Other Thoughts: The policy must contain a standard complaint form. The form should include; submission of the complaint, information to include, bypass procedures (chain of command concerns) and the investigation process. We need to ensure our workforce is trained and fully understands the complaint procedure and process.
- Retaliation Training: This is another topic we need to cover not only in our policy, but during the training session. I cover retaliation related to sexual harassment, harassment, bullying, hostile work environment, workplace violence, etc. We need to ensure there is zero-tolerance for retaliation or any other forms of workplace misbehavior.
- False Claims: I have not read anything related to false claim information in my research on state requirements as of yet. However, what if we investigate and find the claim to be false? This can be detrimental to the accused employee and their career. This needs to be taken seriously and spelled out in our policy and reinforced during training as well. Take all claims serious and investigate thoroughly, remain neutral throughout. Innocent until proven guilty, which is not always easy to maintain during an investigation.
As we get closer to the required dates, there will be more information released on this topic, with tools and resources for all employers to utilize in their organizations. Seek guidance if you are confused and unclear on specific requirements. If you do not have someone in house to do the training, work with a consultant or a continuing education department at a local college. We will be partnering with institutions to ensure employers have resources to use as mandated requirements continue to roll-out from the state. Many questions have not been answered by the state as of yet, and might not be answered until early October. More to come from me on this topic, I will write about policies and handbook language in the coming weeks. Reminder, NYC will have different requirements, watch for updates in the city as well.
– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant