Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Enacting Sweeping New Workplace Harassment ProtectionsTuesday, August 13, 2019
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation yesterday (S.6577/A.8421) which enacted sweeping new workplace harassment protections, fulfilling a key component of Governor Cuomo's 2019 Women's Justice Agenda. According to a press release issued by the Governor's Office, this legislation “strengthens New York’s anti-discrimination laws to ensure employees can seek justice and perpetrators will be held accountable” by eliminating the restriction that harassment be "severe or pervasive" in order to be legally actionable; mandating that all non-disclosure agreements allow employees to file a complaint of harassment or discrimination; and extending the statute of limitations for employment sexual harassment claims filed from one (1) year to three (3) years. See Governor's Office Release. See also the earlier Legal Alert by our firm's labor and employment practice group summarizing the scope of the new workplace harassment legislation at New York State Legislature Enacts Sweeping Changes to Sexual Harassment Laws.
The new legislation will remove the Faragher-Ellerth defense as an affirmative defense for employers with respect to workplace harassment claims, meaning that it won’t be determinative for an employer's liability if the worker doesn't report a claim or follow the company's policy. Employers will still be able to use the defense, but it will no longer be determinative. This amendment will significantly impact employers' abilities to defend these types of complaints.
Those parts of the bill removing the "severe or pervasive" standard and changing the Faragher-Ellerth defense will take effect just sixty (60) days from yesterday, on October 11, 2019.
Employers will have renewed policy notification and training obligations under the new law, as well. Our labor and employment practice group will continue to provide support to clients in the review and revision of their non-discrimination policies and required training programs.
Please contact any of the attorneys in our labor and employment practice group with any questions regarding this sweeping new legislation.
This communication is not intended to serve as legal advice.
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