Monday, November 19, 2018

Why Employers Should NOT Use NYS Sexual Harassment Sample Videos & Policies

Many employers are saying that they will write sexual harassment policies and conduct the mandatory trainings themselves, but they will quickly find that doing it themselves is a big mistake. Without an in-house employment attorney, internal compliance department and/or a comprehensive training program, employers will face the following internal training issues:
  • Employers must comply with Labor Law 201-g (NYS) and Local Law 96 (NYC).
  • New employees must be trained as soon as possible in NYS. NYC requires training within 90 days. So, employers that want to have an annual training for their team must consider multiple trainings when they hire new staff. 
  • Employers that plan to use the sample training videos that NYS released will learn that they simply do not comply with the laws. 
In fact the NYS website clearly states:

the videos alone are NOT considered interactive. If you are using this video to meet the training requirements, you must also: ask questions of employees as part of the program; accommodate questions asked by employees, with answers provided in a timely manner; or require feedback from employees about the training and the materials presented.

Employers that plan to use the sample sexual harassment policy released from New York State are making a big mistake. 

Here are 3 reasons why the NYS sample policy is just not enough:

1. It does not address every other protected class under which an employer can be sued for discrimination (e.g., race, religion, color, national origin, sex [including pregnancy], military status, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, genetic information, disability or any other personal characteristics considered to be a protected class under applicable federal, state or local laws)
Updating the policy matters because when sued for discrimination by a different protected class, you will be able to explain that everyone is protected in the workplace.

2. It does not list potential remedial measures (e.g., termination, suspension, probation, demotion, reassignment, etc.).

Updating the policy matters because employees who do not know the consequences are unlikely to care about changing behavior and, more importantly, without clear expectations an employer can be sued for arbitrarily applying their policy in a discriminatory manner.

3. It does not cause an employee to agree to its terms and to acknowledge written receipt of the policy and complaint form, which is required by law.

Updating the policy matters because without records you have nothing when faced with a Department of Labor audit or a prospective lawsuit. More so, you can justify termination for cause when an employee violates your policy, which they affirmatively agreed to follow.

Moreover, there are ramifications for employers who do not have their employees take the training (i.e., it's a misdemeanor and likely will trigger an EPLI insurance provider to disclaim coverage in a prospective sex discrimination lawsuit). With risk avoidance being the key to these new laws, a sexual harassment vendor should offer the following:
  1. A system to track that employees took the training in anticipation of a Department of Labor audit;
  2. A system to track that the sexual harassment policy and complaint form were distributed in writing and agreed to be followed (i.e., clickwrap) by the employee - distribution of these documents is also required;
  3. A branded policy and training, with both addressing all types of discrimination, beyond just sexual harassment, because the employer may face a discrimination suit on a different protected class and wouldn't want to have to explain to a jury why they only cared about sex discrimination, not the applicable protected class (e.g., race, marital status, disability, etc.); and
  4. Most importantly, a digital on-demand product because the training needs to be instantly available to new employees 

Lieb Compliance offer employers a web-based, on-demand interactive video training platform. While we understand that there are many vendors who train on sexual harassment, most of them don't offer online trainings in compliance with both Labor Law 201-g and Local Law 96. Further, most don't offer to digitally distribute a branded company policy and a tailored complaint form, which are both required under laws. Still further, our competitors rarely offer an opportunity for employers to require that their employees affirmatively agree to be bound by their policy through a digital clickwrap receipt. Please understand that our system goes above and beyond to make compliance easy. We include security checkpoints, randomized quiz questions, note-taking, and the ability for employees to ask questions of the instructor. We even offer monthly user reports so employers can monitor their team's compliance.  

Many "lawyers" teach, but being licensed isn't enough, being dynamic is everything when presenting emotion-ridden topics to employees. Our courses are led by Andrew Lieb, Esq., who founded Lieb Compliance and is our Chief Compliance Officer. Andrew is a prolific author and has trained tens of thousands of employees and independent contractors nationally on compliance topics. He's taught on the college level (human sexuality), he's taught corporate compliance and he even operates a New York State licensed school. Simply stated, he's our secret sauce. 

We encourage you to learn more about our Sexual Harassment Prevention Trainings and Services.



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