On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, a package of bills enhancing protections against sexual harassment. The groundbreaking and far reaching sexual harassment legislative package is in response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement and makes a national call for an end to workplace abuse. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the legislation and is expected to sign the Act into law in the coming weeks.
The Act includes eleven bills that are fueled by the desire to stop sexual harassment in both public and private workplaces in New York City. It will ensure that employees know their rights and the resources available to them that are essential in creating a safe and respectful work environment.
GELC actively assisted the Council with the passage of this legislation and provided testimony to the Council in support of the bills and gave recommendations on how to make this package of legislation stronger. One particular portion of the legislation that we support is that once the Act becomes law, every employee in New York City (regardless of the size of their employer) will be covered by the sexual harassment provisions of the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). This is a divergence from the current requirement that a complainant’s employer have at least 4 employees.
“This legislation is an important first step by the Council in acknowledging that current sexual harassment laws have been unable to prevent sexual harassment and assault from occurring in New York City workplaces,” said GELC Founder and Executive Director, Allegra L. Fishel. Because sexual harassment is the most pernicious form of gender-based discrimination, GELC supports legislation that is proactive, rather than reactive, to sexual harassment that occurs on the job. “By the time an employee pursues a legal cause of action, they may have suffered significant emotional distress and may have been pushed out of their job,” says Ms. Fishel.
In our work, we regularly see how sexual harassment contributes to widening the gender wage gap for women and members of the LGBTQ community, and are proud of this bold step against gender-based discrimination.
The following provides a brief summary of each bill included in the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act:
Local Law 612 amends the New York City Charter and mandates that all New York City agencies conduct anti-sexual harassment training annually. Further, the law provides that supervisors and managerial employees are required to receive additional training that focuses on the prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation and measures to appropriately address sexual harassment complaints.
Local Law 613 requires the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“the Commission”) and Department of Citywide Administrative Services to conduct an assessment of risk factors associated with sexual harassment within New York City agencies to help provide a fair and safe work environment for all city workers.
Local Law 614 amends the New York City Administrative Code (“NYC Admin. Code”) and requires that the Commission post information and sources about sexual harassment on their website.
Local Law 630 amends the New York City Charter and requires the Commission to design an anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities poster. Further, the law requires all employers in New York City to display the poster in a location where employees gather, and that the poster be made available online for employer reproduction. The law also requires that an information sheet on sexual harassment be distributed to employees at the time of hire.
Local Law 632 amends the NYC Admin. Code and requires the Commission to create a series of online interactive anti-sexual harassment training modules to post on their website for access by employers and mandates that all private employers with 15 or more employees conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training focusing on the prevention of sexual harassment and retaliation as well as measures to appropriately address sexual harassment complaints.
Local Law 653 amends the NYC Admin. Code and mandates annual reporting of workplace sexual harassment within New York City agencies to the Mayor, the NYC Council and the Commission. Further, the law requires the Commission to post the report on its website.
Local Law 657 amends the NYC Admin. Code and the NYCHRL to apply its sexual harassment provisions to all employees, regardless of the number of employees.
Local Law 660 amends the NYC Admin. Code and the policy statement of the NYCHRL to include sexual harassment as a form of discrimination that the Commission shall have the power to eliminate and prevent.
Local Law 663 amends the NYC Admin. Code and requires the Commission to change the statute of limitations for filing harassment claims based on unwelcome conduct that intimidates, interferes with, oppresses, threatens, humiliates or degrades a person based on such person’s gender from one year to three years from the time that the alleged harassment occurred.
Local Law 664 requires the Commission and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to develop a climate survey to be administered on a voluntary basis at all New York City agencies to assess the general awareness and knowledge of NYC Equal Employment Opportunity workplace sexual harassment policies and prevention. Following the survey, the law requires that a report with the results be given to the Mayor and Speaker of the Council. Based on those results, the law requires the Mayor’s Office of Operations to work with each agency to develop an action plan to address the results of the survey.
Local Law 693 amends the New York City Charter and the Division of Labor Services Employment Report, required by New York City contractors, to include employment practices, policies and procedures as they relate to preventing and addressing sexual harassment.
And finally, Resolution 222 calls upon the U.S. Congress and President to sign the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017, Bill S2203/HR4734, which prohibits a pre-dispute arbitration agreement from being valid or enforceable if it requires arbitration of a sexual harassment dispute.
The monumental energy from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement was a catalyst for this legislation and represents the beginning of a real shift toward a culture of respect and accountability. We know that this Act is just the beginning, and we will continue to work with the City to make sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination a thing of the past.