Legal Media Analysts

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sexual Harassment Protections Extended to Independent Contractors in New York State

As of April 12, 2018, companies in the State of New York are now exposed to liability for harassment of independent contractors in the workplace.  The text of the new law can be found here. The New York State Human Rights Law previously only protected employees from sexual harassment.  While the statute does not specify whether companies can be held liable for acts of their independent contractors who sexually harass other independent contractors, the statute does state that when determining whether a company is liable for the acts of the harasser, the “extent of the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility which the employer may have with respect to the conduct of the harasser” should be considered.  This language appears to imply that companies such as real estate brokerages which subject independent contractors to substantial supervision (as required by 19 NYCRR §175.21(a) and Real Property Law §441(1)(d )), would be exposed to liability for all acts of harassment committed by their independent contractors.  It is thus imperative that brokerage firms immediately implement sexual harassment policies and trainings for their independent contractors in addition to their employees to mitigate potential exposure.