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Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

August 15, 2019

Sweeping Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill Signed Into Law

On July 3, we reported the NYS Legislature passed a sweeping anti-sexual harassment bill aimed at making it easier for employees to pursue claims against employers. Governor Cuomo just signed the legislation into law on Monday, and the first changes under the new law will take effect beginning on October 11, 2019.

Notably, the law eliminates the “severe or pervasive” standard and, instead, only requires that a plaintiff prove conduct that exceeds “petty slights or trivial inconveniences” in order to succeed on a sexual harassment claim.

The law also erodes an employer’s affirmative defense that the employee failed to report objectionable conduct by a co-worker to the employer. Previously, an employer could argue that if an employee did not report conduct by a co-worker that created a hostile work environment, the employee’s failure to report the conduct would act as a defense to liability. However, the new law eliminates the defense, and an employer may be held liable even if the employee never made a complaint or failed to follow the employer’s anti-harassment policy. These provisions will unquestionably lead to an increase in sexual harassment claims under NYS law.

Beginning August 12, 2020, the time for an employee to file a complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights will be increased from one year to three years, matching the statute of limitations for filing a claim in state court.

As we stated in our prior alert, it is critically important that employers make sure their employees are properly trained and that their policies are up-to-date and comply with the law.

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