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Ian Carleton Schaefer Quoted in “NY Sex Harass Guidance May Put Employers in Time Crunch”

Law360

Ian Carleton Schaefer, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360, in “NY Sex Harass Guidance May Put Employers in Time Crunch,” by Vin Gurrrieri. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

New York state’s recently proposed standards for how businesses should structure anti-sexual harassment policies and conduct newly mandated training sessions could leave employers scrambling to comply with a tight time frame and uncertain about whether the state’s proposals meet New York City requirements, experts say.

The proposed guidelines — which were announced Aug. 23 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and are open for public comment until Sept. 12 — include a model harassment prevention policy and model training program that employers can adopt as well as forms for workers, independent contractors and vendor employees to make complaints. If employers don’t adopt the state’s prototypes, they can implement customized policies and training programs provided they meet the state’s minimum standards, which were unveiled the same day.

All employers must adopt either the state’s model anti-sexual harassment policy or an adequate customized version by Oct. 9 and make sure that all current employees and contractors have anti-harassment training by Jan. 1, 2019. New hires after that date must complete training within 30 days, according to the state.

The proposals build on Cuomo’s signing in April of a state budget proposal that included an update to sexual harassment laws in the Empire State.

Epstein Becker & Green PC member Ian Carleton Schaefer of the firm’s New York office said the new state rules are “an important development” in the midst of the #MeToo movement and represent “a natural extension and reaction” to it.

“This continues along the line of states taking much more active roles in addressing and preventing harassment in the workplace, and certainly New York state has taken the lead from a nationwide perspective in that regard,” Schaefer said. “The goal of all these different provisions is to shine a spotlight on these issues, make sure that people ... are set up to address the issues appropriately and to build some infrastructure around policy, training and reporting.” …

Schaefer also highlighted the timing issue as one of his biggest takeaways from New York’s draft guidance, saying that while the annual training requirement wasn’t a surprise, the January deadline was sooner than many employers had anticipated.

“This obviously presents a challenge for a lot of employers who may not have engaged in this type of training before or aren’t set up to do it in a scalable way by Jan. 1, especially when you’re talking about large employers with hundreds or thousands of employees who have to get this [done] not only this year but on a rolling basis,” he said. …

With respect to training requirements, Schaefer said it remains an open question as to how the state training requirements will match up with those imposed by the city, saying the issue will probably be one that is raised during the public comment period.