Rules for Sexual Harassment Training in New York, State and City

New York—both the state and the city—have many restrictions. It’s a difficult state to run a business in, and an even more difficult city. One of their challenging requirements is their guidelines on sexual harassment training for employees. There are six requirements for training courses on the state level, and a whole nine for the city. Let’s go over them all.

State Guidelines

The first requirement in the state of New York is that the training must be interactive. After all, if you just tell your employees to watch a long video, odds are pretty good that they’ll just zone out and pay no attention. Short of having an extremely silly and nonsensical mascot, the best way to get people to pay attention is to ask them questions about what they learned.

Second, the training materials’ explanation of sexual harassment has to match the definition provided by the Department of Labor’s Division of Human Rights. The training also must include examples, which is the third requirement.

The forth rule is that a training program must mention the options that are available for victims of sexual harassment—the provisions for what they can do, under the law. The fifth is similar; it needs to mention what employees specifically can do, and all the places they can bring their complaints.

Lastly, the training material must also include guidelines for supervisors. It should tell how to react when supervisors are the ones instigating the harassment, as well as the responsibilities they have to create a safe work environment.

There are other guidelines that are not required but are strongly recommended. It should be web-based, accommodate questions asked by employees, and require employees to give feedback on the program so it can be continually improved.

City Guidelines

New York City’s website,, offers much more information about the law and how to ensure compliance, but here’s the simple guidelines. New York City has nine requirements for sexual harassment training, and only a few of them overlap with the states’ guidelines. Here they are:

First, it must explain what sexual harassment is defined as under New York City law, specifically. I assume this is not particularly different from what it’s defined as under the law of the entire United States, but New York going to New York, just to annoy everybody else.

Second, the materials must state that harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination, not just under New York City law, but also under state and federal law. This is to make sure employees know that, if they sexually harass anyone, they’ll be screwed three different ways, not just one.

Next, the program needs to define sexual harassment clearly, and give examples. These requirements are also given under the state law.

The fourth rule requires the program to talk about intervening if you are a bystander to harassment. It must explain and provide resources.

Fifth, the training must also explain the internal complaint processes of the company. If employees are harassed, they need to know what channels to go through in order to resolve the incident.

They also need to know external complaint processes, through channels such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New York City Commission on Human Rights Law.

The seventh rule says that the material must also explain why retaliating to harassment in kind is wrong. This section must also give examples of what types of behavior are considered inappropriate retaliation.

Rule eight discusses supervisors: their responsibilities to provide safety for employees and what they should do to address complaints. This is also mandated at the state level.

The ninth requirement is that there must be a form at the end acknowledging that the employee has completed the training. Businesses must keep the acknowledgment forms of their employees for at least three years.

Actions to Take for Compliance

There are many companies that offer compliant NY harassment training for both city and state guidelines. You should be able to find exactly what you need there.

There are a lot of guidelines about how large your business needs to be before it needs to offer the training. You must have fifteen employees, including interns, part-timers, and independent contractors, and even if they’re not all at the same location in New York City, if your business is in New York City, it still needs NYC-compliant training. Any employees who work less than 90 days or less than 80 hours in a year are not required to complete the training, but they still count towards the total of fifteen employees. And let’s be honest, how many small businesses are employing people for less than 80 hours in a year? There are a lot of complicated guidelines, but if you’re not sure, just err on the side of caution and offer the training.

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