New York State law requires all sizes and types of employers, including small and large farms, to provide sexual harassment training no later than Oct. 9.
“This includes part-time, seasonal and temporary workers regardless of immigration status,” said Deputy Counsel Michael Paglialonga, of the New York Department of Labor. “It’s better to do this right away, rather than wait. It’s not a great idea to hire somebody new, bring them on and they’ve never been trained. Bad stuff can happen quickly, even on the first day.”
One of the law’s key provisions is that training must be interactive, allowing for questions and answers, either live and in person, via website or on an individual basis.
“Interactivity is to make it more than someone standing in a room watching a video or watching a YouTube link at home,” Paglialonga said.
The state has developed and offers a PowerPoint in script to make training interactive. If using a video, employees can watch it online or it can be downloaded for a group presentation, followed by an opportunity for feedback.
Paglialonga shared such information during a webinar specifically designed for farmers by the Labor Department’s Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs.
The session, entitled “What Do I Need to Know About the New Sexual Harassment Training Requirements?” started with an overview and included detailed instructions for employers and resources to help them comply with the law.
“This has been a very large issue,” Paglialonga said. “It’s every employer’s responsibility to make sure employees are trained and familiar with their policies.”
As of Oct. 9, 2018, all employers were required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy that meets basic state requirements and provide a copy to all workers, including information about how to file a complaint. This may be a provided as an attachment or website link.
The policy must clearly state that employers will take action against individuals who violate the law, and that retaliation is unlawful against people who file a complaint or participate in an investigation.
The policy must also include examples of prohibited behaviors.
Likewise, training must include examples of unlawful conduct, plus other provisions such as:
• Information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forms for adjudicating complaints.
• Information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisors.
“Training is required to be done on an annual basis,” Paglialonga said. “All policies must meet minimum standards laid out in the model policy.”
This was developed by the state Labor Department and state Division of Human Rights.
“Businesses can adopt it as is or use it as a starting point to develop their own policies, but all businesses must meet the minimum standards laid out in the model policy,” he said. “Many cities and counties have adopted laws that go on top of state laws. New York state sets the absolute floor. Some municipalities have gone above and have additional requirements.”
Because many upstate New York farmworkers are Spanish speaking, from Mexico and Central America, training should be given in the language that is spoken by employees. The state offers sexual harassment prevention policies and training in nine different languages.
Model training should also:
• Be given consistently across each organization’s workforce so everyone understands and has the same process.
• Be modified to reflect specific policies and practices of each employer and industry.
• Detail internal processes such as what the human resources office will do when a complaint is received.
For additional information on sexual harassment policies and training, go to ny.gov/programs/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace. This includes minimum standards for policies and trainings, employer and employee toolkits, model training including the script book and PowerPoint presentation, and frequently asked questions.
Paul Post is a freelance writer in eastern New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.