January 17, 2020
After building up laws against sexual harassment in 2018, in 2019 New York State enacted additional legislation that further clarified and expanded protections available to workers under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), as we previously discussed in this article. A number of the new requirements took effect in 2019, but New York State employers should be aware of the following additional provisions that are taking effect this year:
1. Non-disclosure of discrimination claims: As of January 1, 2020, any provision in an agreement between an employer and an employee (or potential employee) that prohibits the employee (or potential employee) from disclosing discrimination claims or related information will be void and unenforceable unless it also clarifies that the person is not prohibited from making such disclosure to law enforcement, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights, a local commission on human rights, or the employee’s attorney.
This is layered on top of earlier legislation, which took effect in October of 2019, and which prohibits New York employers from including a non-disclosure provision in any settlement, agreement or other resolution of any discrimination claim unless such confidentiality is the preference of the complainant, memorialized in writing after the complainant has had 21 days to consider it, and the complainant may revoke the agreement during a period of at least seven days after signing it (and further provided that any such non-disclosure provision must be written in plain English and, if applicable, the primary language of the complainant).
2. New York State Human Rights Law applicable to all employers: The NYSHRL contains broad and important anti-discrimination provisions protecting a wide variety of people, but up to now, the provisions in the law applied only to employers with four or more employees. As of February 8, 2020, the obligations of employers under the NYSHRL law will be applicable to all employers within New York State, even those with fewer than four employees.
3. Statute of limitations extended for sexual harassment claims: Effective August 12, 2020, the one-year statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment claim under the NYSHRL with the New York State Division of Human Rights will extend to three years. However, for all other types of discrimination, employees will still have only one year from the last alleged discriminatory act to file claims with the New York State Division.
How to Remain Compliant and Protect Your Employees and Your Company
• Be aware of your employees’ expanded rights and your obligations as an employer in New York State under the NYSHRL, including those previously in effect as well as those taking effect this year.
• Make sure that non-disclosure clauses in new employee-related agreements (e.g., employment, separation and settlement agreements) meet the requirements of the new law.
• When arranging for the required annual sexual harassment prevention training for your employees in New York, be sure the training content is current and reflects both the new statute of limitations taking effect later this year and other legislative developments.
Attorneys from Reavis Page Jump LLP are available to answer questions you may have regarding compliance with the new laws. Our in-person and online training programs will ensure employers receive up-to-date training.
To learn more about our training programs for your company, or if you seek assistance with a particular employment law or labor law matter, please contact Deena R. Merlen by email at email@example.com or by calling our offices at 212-763-4160 (NY) or 203-653-4422 (CT).
This article is intended only as a general discussion of these issues. It is not considered to be legal advice or relied upon. Research assisted by RPJ Associates Nafsika Karavida and Jill Kahn Marshall. If you need assistance with a particular employment matter, RPJ Partner Deena R. Merlen would be pleased to consider providing additional details or advice about specific situations. Attorney Advertising.