New York Sexual Harassment Training Requirements
Updated: Mar 25
What you need to know to get your people trained in New York State and City
Sexual harassment prevention training in the current professional landscape can often feel like reinventing the wheel, especially with remote workers in different states with different laws and regulations. In some cases, cities can also have their own, unique laws that don't necessarily apply to the entire state. A Brooklyn-based office might have different training requirements for its employees compared to their sister office in upstate New York.
We’ll take a closer look below at what you need to know to get your team compliant in New York State and New York City (yes, there are some key differences in policy between the two). Please note that this is not legal advice and, in order to not overwhelm you, there are nuances we do not address. So please treat this as more of an overview rather than a substitute for the actual law.
All right, let’s get started. Before we get into the finer details, let’s talk about the basics:
Employers With Any Employees Working in New York are Subject to New York’s Sexual Harassment Laws
Under New York law, the size and location of the employer is irrelevant—if you have employees working full-time, part-time, or even occasionally anywhere in the state of New York, you must comply with New York’s laws that are designed to address, resolve and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
In addition, if you have employees working in New York City, you must also comply with the New York City Human Rights Law. Many of the requirements are similar—NYC law already takes state requirements regarding sexual harassment prevention into account—but there are some unique aspects to the NYC law that we need to cover.
The first requirement under New York State law is that every employee working in New York (full-time, part-time, exempt, non-exempt, seasonal, and temporary) must receive a sexual harassment “Notice” upon hiring and annually thereafter. This Notice is comprised of (1) the employer’s Sexual Harassment Policy and (2) “information presented” in the employer’s Sexual Harassment Training. You can use the Model Sexual Harassment Policy materials provided here by New York State, but you can also construct your own Notice with the model materials as a guide.
The NYC laws require distribution of a “Factsheet,” which must be in both English and Spanish. Similar to New York State, you can find Model NYC resources here. There are also poster requirements under both NY law and NYC law, including a NYC requirement that posters be in both English and Spanish.
All Businesses with New York Employees Must Have a Sexual Harassment Policy
This may seem like a no-brainer since it goes hand-in-hand with training, but all employers with NY employees must use—and disseminate among their NY employees—New York’s Model Sexual Harassment Policy or their own that meets the same requirements. (A full list of those requirements can be found here.)
All Businesses Must Conduct Sexual Harassment Training Annually for All of Their Employees in New York.
Upon hiring and thereafter once annually, employers must provide every employee who is doing any work in NY with training that meets state requirements for sexual harassment prevention training.
NYC has a similar training requirement, although it only applies to employers with 15 or more employees and contractors. Those employers are required to provide NYC-specific training that covers all the same requirements as New York State, plus a few additional topics such as bystander intervention and retaliation. Note that the 15+ employees are counted by looking at all employees and contractors of a company at any time during the current or prior calendar year, whether or not they are based in NY. For employers required to meet NYC training requirements, keep in mind that NYC training will satisfy the NY state training requirements, but the reverse is not true.
These trainings can be constructed in whatever way the employer sees fit, as long as they meet the legal requirements (we’ll get to those shortly), but New York State provides a Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for employers to use as a backup option. For New York City residents, an online Sexual Harassment Prevention Training course is available online thanks to The Commission, which provides multiple languages and tools for accessibility, and provides a certificate upon completion.
You may be thinking, “Okay, that’s pretty easy, I’ll just use the government-provided training.” But for those of us who want to make sure they’re really crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s—or for someone weighing better, more engaging options for their company training—there are a handful of requirements that New York training needs in order to be effective and compliant. If you’re looking for an easy option that doesn’t smell like bureaucracy, most third-party/e-learning programs cover these requirements automatically. But we digress . . .
Training Requirements: What Constitutes Acceptable Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
Let’s break it all down into the most crucial parts to save you some future legal headaches.
How long does training have to be, and how often?
A standard question with a non-standard answer: there isn’t a time requirement for New York or NYC training, although the model trainings for both New York State and City each take about 45 minutes to complete. Training does have to occur annually, but you’re free to choose your own method of tracking this (e.g. based on calendar year, employee start date. etc.).
Should training be done all at once, once per year? When it comes to arming your employees with the knowledge and tools they need to prevent harassment in the workplace, you may want to revisit the training—or break the training materials up into multiple courses or meetings. Studies show that having training that occurs regularly with “varied and dynamic” content—i.e. training that builds on previous lessons and engages learners directly—has a direct and positive effect on company culture. The EEOC’s recent task force reported as such:
[E]mployees understand that an organization's devotion of time and resources to any effort reflects the organization's commitment to that effort. Training is no different.. . . If anti-harassment trainings are regularly scheduled events in which key information is reinforced, that will send the message that the goal of the training is important. —EEOC, 2016, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace
Of course, training once per year is the minimum requirement, but if you’re looking to really make a cultural difference when it comes to harassment prevention, we recommend training year-round.
Which employees are required to train, and what about new hires?
New York state requires that all employees who work in NY, even if it’s only for a portion of their work hours, receive training. As we noted above, NY law defines an “employee” as all workers, regardless of immigration status and regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, exempt, non-exempt, seasonal, or temporary. Minors (e.g., child actors) are also required to take training, although some modifications might be permitted depending on age.
Employers subject to NYC laws are required to train all full-time employees as well as any part-time workers, independent contractors, interns and freelancers who have worked for more than 80 hours per year and for at least 90 days.
In both instances, new hires should be trained “as soon as possible” after hire, but NYC employees who work 80+ hours/year must have completed their training within 90 days of hire.
Am I required to keep any records?
On the state level, New York does not require employers to keep records of their sexual harassment prevention trainings, but the Department of Labor recommends employers keep training records for possible future complaints or lawsuits. (And honestly, so do we.)
New York City employers are required to keep records for three years minimum, however, and they must be made available for inspection by the New York City Commission on Human Rights at any time. These records must contain a signed acknowledgment of training by the employee, in print or electronic form.
But what should the training actually consist of and contain? Let’s take a look at what New York considers a successful training:
Training must be interactive
Both state and city guidelines specify that training should be interactive, whether it’s administered to individuals or a group, in-person or online, or live or recorded. Both guidelines require audience participation, and they suggest trainers do so by asking questions throughout and afterward to track that employees understand the training. NY State notes that if training is web-based, the employee must answer those questions correctly. New York State also encourages employers to provide timely answers to employee questions and ask for feedback from their employees about the presented materials.
Training must be presented in English, as well as an employee’s primary language
Employers are required to provide both their sexual harassment policy and training to employees in English and their primary language if it is Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Bengali, or Italian. New York City has no such requirement, but The Commission’s online training is available in ten languages and includes key accessibility elements for persons with disabilities who may have difficulty accessing online training.
Everyone in your organization should get the same training, but you should also personalize it to be relevant
New York’s Department of Labor insists that training should be uniform, meaning that every employee should receive training consistent with everyone else on staff. Delivery can be somewhat flexible, but everyone should be learning from the same curriculum.
One specific suggestion for customization? Editing the example scenarios to fit your industry. The DOL suggests this, and providing tangible, relatable examples for your staff will show you care about preventing harassment and help them retain more useful information.
What does the training actually need to contain?
What needs to be covered during training to make sure your team is covered each year? A satisfactory training must include:
A Definition of Sexual Harassment - This feels like another no-brainer, which is why we’ve priotized it first on this list. Both kinds of harassment, “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment,” must be clearly defined. In NYC, sexual harassment must also be defined as unlawful discrimination under NYC law. Both New York State and City model trainings provide these definitions for use.
Examples - Training must include examples of unlawful sexual harassment. As we mentioned above, finding industry-specific hypothetical scenarios relevant to your teams is an excellent way to turn bland training into an engaging learning experience. Examples should be used to facilitate interactivity: both NY Model trainings follow their example scenarios with questions for the audience. Learning how to apply lessons to real life scenarios is key for trainee success.
Federal and State Provisions and Remedies - Training should communicate the legal protections and governmental resources available for those who experience or witness sexual harassment.
Complaints and Redress Processes, Both Internally and Externally - Employees should know your organization’s formal complaint process (if there is one) as well as the process for filing a complaint externally with the most-relevant local or federal office (e.g. the NYC CHR, the NY DHR, and/or the EEOC).
Language on Retaliation - This isn’t a state requirement, but NYC requires that trainers cover prohibition of retaliation and include examples on retaliation for speaking up. Regardless of requirements, both Model trainings cover retaliation, and you should too.
Bystander Intervention - Anyone who rides the NYC Subway has seen the phrase “if you see something, say something” at some point, and it’s an equally helpful phrase for harassment prevention training. New York City sexual harassment prevention training must define, provide examples of, and instruct learners how to engage in bystander intervention when it concerns unlawful discrimination. It’s not required on the state level, but the Model training includes an entire section on encouraging bystander intervention.
Supervisor- and Manager-Specific Responsibilities - All New York sexual harassment prevention training must cover the role of supervisors and managers and include their explicit responsibilities when preventing sexual harassment and addressing complaints.
With all these guidelines, requirements, training materials—especially when you’re weighing NYS versus NYC—crafting the best training to protect your employees can feel like a never-ending grocery list . . . if that grocery list was shredded into confetti and hidden on a dozen different government websites. Luckily, third-party e-learning experts like Ethena are available to handle this mess for you. Better yet, they’ll take the time to cover the legal requirements, cater the training to your people, and present every lesson in the most-engaging way possible, freeing up your admin schedule and setting your team up for future success!
Let’s train better.
Please note this is not legal advice, nor does it contain every detail or requirement of the applicable laws: it is provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be relied upon. If you have questions about these laws,please consult your legal counsel.