NYS Enacts Several Laws Affecting Sexual Harassment Claims in the Workplace

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Bill No.In BriefEffective DateEnacted
S5870Amends existing law to prohibit release of an employee’s personnel file in retaliation for an employee’s complaints about employer’s discriminatory practices.March 16, 2022Yes
S812aCreates a toll-free, confidential workplace sexual harassment hotline.  Requires employers to post and otherwise advise employees about the existence of this hotline in employer-provided materials.July 14, 2022Yes
S3295aAmends New York Human Rights Law to apply to all public employees and officials, including any elected official, of the New York state executive, legislature, or judiciary, including persons serving in any judicial capacity, and persons serving on the staff of any elected official in New York State.March 16, 2022Yes
S738Known as the Let Survivors Speak Act, this law would amend the General Obligation Law to prohibit settlement agreements in matters involving discrimination, harassment or retaliation from containing inter alia (1) non-disparagement or non-disclosure clauses, (2) clauses calling for forfeiture of all or part of consideration for violation of non-disclosure or non-disparagement clauses, or (3) clauses requiring any affirmative statement, assertion, or disclaimer by the complainant that the complainant was not in fact subject to unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, or retaliation.Passed by Senate.  Not yet passed by Assembly.No
S766Amends General Obligations Law to prohibit releases or settlement agreements between employees (or general contractors) and employers to contain a “no rehire” clause.”  The amendment does not preclude anemployee and employer from agreeing to terminate an existing employment relationship as part of a settlement of a claim.Passed by Senate.  Not yet passed by Assembly.No
S566aExtends the statute of limitations for administrative claims resulting from unlawful discriminatory practices to three years.Passed by Senate. Not yet passed by Assembly.  Effective 90 days after enactment.No
S849aExtends the statute of limitations for harassment in the workplace to six years under the NYHRL.Passed by Senate. Not yet passed by Assembly.  Effective 60 days after enactment.No

Next Steps

Employers should audit their current investigative practices concerning all allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. They should ensure that appropriate protective measures are being taken during investigations, proper interview and documentation practices are being followed, and confidentiality, due process, and non-retaliation obligations are upheld. 

This trend of increasing protections for employees victimized by sexual harassment and assault in the workplace sends a strong signal to business owners and human resources professionals to carefully audit their internal practices, business communications, and employee contracts. 

Employers should also review and update any employee policies, handbooks, communications, and employee contracts, for prohibited waivers, obligations and representations concerning sexual harassment investigations and prohibitions.   This will include updating your sexual harassment training training materials, as well as reviewing your current sexual harassment policy, individual employee contracts, non-disclosure agreements, separation agreement templates, and any pre-employment arbitration agreements. 

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