What Does the New Sexual Harassment Training Require?
Author: Stephen D. Hans & Associates
By now, hopefully many employers in New York have become aware of the new sexual harassment training laws that went into effect on October 9, 2018. Under the new law, all New York employers, no matter how many employees you have, are required under State law to establish a sexual harassment training policy.
New York State has published a tool kit that explains the guidelines employers must follow. Some employers already had established sexual harassment policies prior to the new law. Others may not have any sexual harassment policy in place. In either case, you must comply with the government’s new requirements.
If you’re uncertain about whether your policy is compliant or not, it is wise to consult with an experienced employment defense attorney. The probability is high that most employers are missing parts of the new law in their policies.
Sexual Harassment Training Tool Kit Guidelines
A checklist for sexual harassment training must meet (or it can exceed) the following minimum training standards. Training must:
- “Be Interactive (see the model training guidance document for specific recommendations);
- Include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
- Include examples of unlawful sexual harassment;
- Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual
- harassment and remedies available to targets of sexual harassment;
- Include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints; and
- Include information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisors.”
It is common have questions about the new guidelines and how to apply them. The specific details of what some of the minimum training standards require are not clear to many employers.
Stephen Hans & Associates can answer your questions and help you understand exactly what is required and how to even exceed the minimum standards. We offer seasoned legal guidance based on decades of employment law defense experience.
Thousands of Employees Worldwide Protest Google’s Handling of Sexual Harassment
The Google Walkout on November 1, 2018 in protest of sexual harassment was a worldwide event. The largest gathering of protesters, numbering in the thousands, occurred in Silicon Valley, California where Google Headquarters is located.
In addition, The New York Times reported that workers protested internationally in Singapore, Hyderabad, Berlin, Zurich, London, Chicago and Seattle, to name a few locations. New York also had a large number of protesters. An estimated 3,000 people gathered to protest in a city park.
Since the #Metoo movement began a year ago, sexual harassment has topped the list in anti-discrimination movements. A number of states have passed stricter laws to prohibit sexual harassment, and New York has passed the most stringent sexual harassment training laws in the nation.
What Was the Main Protest Focus in the Google Walkout?
The New York Times published an article on Oct 25, 2018 about the resignation of the creator of Android software, Andy Rubin in 2014. At that time, he left Google with a $90 million exit package and no public disclosure of sexual misconduct.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Larry Page, co-founder of Google and the chief executive of the parent company, Alphabet issued apologies. According to a Wall Street Journal article on the walkout, Pichai stated that Google no longer makes payouts to employees who are dismissed due to sexual harassment. He also stated, “Moments like this show we didn’t always get it right. We are listening to employees, which is why today is important.”
Another point of contention among the protesters was Google’s mandatory arbitration requirement in employee contracts. Employees who were protesting submitted a letter to the company that stated they wanted Google to remove mandatory arbitration and allow sexual harassment lawsuits, the way the Microsoft Co. and Uber had done during the past year.
A letter to the CEO also requested that the board of directors include an employee representative and that Google’s Chief Diversity Officer report directly to the CEO.
Google has been known for its open relationship with employees where debate is encouraged and employees enjoy many perks that come with their jobs.
Do You Have Questions about Employment Law?
Having anti-sexual harassment policies in place has become vitally important for employers in many different industries and countries around the world.
If you have questions, our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates are glad to advise regarding your concerns.
According to the New York Law Journal, Harvey Weinstein’s accusers will have a difficult time actually recovering payment on their claims. The parent company of Weinstein Co.filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on March 20, 2018. Before that, Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, had filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein companies on February 11, 2018 based upon its gender based hostile work environment and a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment. After over 100 women made accusations against Harvey based on his outrageous behavior and the company fired him in October 2017, it became clear that his company could no longer continue without new leadership. There were negotiations with a potential buyer which would have included $90 Million in funding to pay the claims, but the deal fell through. After the company filed Chapter 11, a new buyer is negotiating a deal which does not include any fund for the payment of claims. These women’s claims will now have to compete with all of the company’s other creditors for limited funds. In fact, they are at a disadvantage because most of the their claims never reached a judgment, which at least would have given them a claim for a certain amount. When a dollar amount has to be assigned to any contested claim in bankruptcy court, it will always be at a much lower amount than it would have been if the woman could have presented her case to a jury. All of the women can still bring their cases against Harvey Weinstein personally, but his income is now limited and he had just gone through a very expensive divorce. They’d better hurry up and get a place in the line.
What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
Quid pro quo is latin for something received or traded for something else. Applied to sexual harassment, it means the boss or supervisor will give the employee something (a raise or a promotion) in return for satisfaction of a sexual demand, or when a manager or other authority figure implies that he will not fire or punish the employee as long as she agrees to give him some type of sexual favor. While we usually think of men as the culprits, be aware that there are also cases where women demand sexual favors from men or from other women as well. Andrea Ramsey, a former executive, had to drop out of the race to become the democratic candidate for a competitive congressional district in the Kansas City area, when it came out that a man had filed a lawsuit against her in 2005 claiming he had been fired for rejecting her sexual advances. She denied that the claim was ever valid, but in December 2017 she acknowledged that in this climate, candidates were being held to higher standards, and the allegation was enough to make her abandon her congressional bid.
Can a Sexual Harassment Claim be Wiped Out (Discharged) in Bankruptcy?
A sexual harassment claim can continue even if the guilty party has filed bankruptcy if it is “willful and malicious”, but the conduct has to be very serious. For example, where a father had sexually abused his daughter for 10 years, beat her, warned her not to tell others, and threatened her life, the bankruptcy court held that there was no need to have any trial on whether the conduct was willful and malicious, the harm was inevitable, and the daughter’s judgment was non-dischargeable and had to be paid even though the father had gone bankrupt. In that case, the daughter had already obtained a judgment. Where there is an accusation of touching that the offending party denies, there will have to be a trial in the bankruptcy court. While I have not been able to find any cases on this, I am very confident that if the woman had to meet sexual demands to keep her job, she would win if the court believed her claims. On the other hand, if the conduct involved only verbal abuse and the injury was psychological, I think the claim would probably be wiped out by the bankruptcy, but I cannot find any reported case which answers this question either way. This is particularly true because bankruptcy judges tend to think only in economic terms, and are generally not receptive to awarding limited dollars against claims of emotional trauma, as opposed to giving it to creditors who have sustained economic losses in hard dollars and who are only going to get a small portion of their claims paid. This might change with the advent of the #metoo movement, though – we’ll have to wait and see.
 Weinstein Accusers Face Difficult Road to Recovery in Bankruptcy, NYLJ 3/24/18
 11 USCS § 523(a)(6).
 Henderson v. Woolley (In re Woolley), 288 B.R. 294, 303, 2001 Bankr. LEXIS 2106, *22
Author: Bill Cafaro
Author: Stephen D. Hans & Associates
Recent high-profile sexual harassment stories have been dominating the headlines in the last few weeks. The likelihood is that such exposés will continue as more victims come forward to tell their stories. And while stories that include famous celebrities and high profile politicians will be more desirable fodder for major news outlets, it’s easy to believe that local business scandals may go unnoticed.
Sexual harassment under the law
Rather than just considering how your company should respond to a sexual harassment claim, you should also consider how such incidences in your company can be decreased. Limiting your company’s liability is a valid concern but focusing on creating a non-threatening work environment for your employees may help you to create a sexual harassment policy that will be successful.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Such discrimination can manifest as:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Unwelcome sexual advances (both physical and verbal)
- Offensive jokes
- Name calling
- Physical assaults / threats
- Offensive objects or pictures
- Interference with work performance
The EEOC investigates thousands of sexual harassment claims per year—and given the current climate, those claims are likely to increase.
What you can do
Small to medium business need to understand that it is not just large corporations and famous celebrities that get hit with sexual harassment claims. If you have as few as 15 employees you could find yourself facing such a suit, so taking an active role in preventing workplace sexual harassment and correcting any incidents should be a priority for you.
Written Policies and Procedures. Having written policies and procedures against sexual discrimination provides a major legal defense against liability. By having policy and procedures in place, it shows that you’ve made a good faith effort to prevent and correct harassment. Such policies and procedures should include:
- Definition of sexual harassment
- A procedure for filing complaints
- Designated employees trained on receiving and documenting complaints
- Encouragement in filing complaints
- Assurances of confidentiality and non-retaliation for reporting
Providing training on sexual harassment to employees
Providing comprehensive training on what sexual harassment is, how to recognize it, how to report it, and the responsibilities for both workers and employers can save your company a lot of future headaches. Your training course should contain both theoretical and practical content—using drills, hypothetical situations, and other means to provide a personal understanding of sexual harassment. It is also wise to train managerial and supervisory staff separately from employees.
Prevent sexual harassment before it occurs—talk to an employment law attorney
Ultimately your best approach to harassment in your company is to create and adhere to a zero tolerance policy. By refusing to tolerate such behavior and protecting any employee subjected to it, you not only protect your company but also invest in your greatest resource – your employees. An experienced NY employment law attorney can work with you to develop the appropriate policies and steps to take to prevent and correct sexual harassment within your company. If you have questions about your company’s sexual harassment policies contact us online or call 718-275-6700 today to schedule a consultation.