The #MeToo movement’s efforts to protect employees from unlawful harassment continues to resonate at the state level. In late June, the New York state legislature passed the most expansive sexual harassment prohibitions in the nation, extending protections well beyond those imposed under federal law. The new law is intended to both expand the definition of protected sexual misconduct at work and to make it considerably easier for plaintiffs to prevail in lawsuits against employers found to be in violation of these requirements.
Among other new protections, the law will:
- Prohibit the use of mandatory arbitration agreements with respect to discrimination and harassment claims, as well as the use of confidentiality requirements in settlement agreements.
- Eliminate the requirement that plaintiffs prove that harassment is severe and pervasive in order to prevail in court.
- Eliminate any requirement that employees first make an internal complaint before seeking redress for harassment.
- Extend these same protections to contractors and other non-employees harassed by the defendant’s employees.
The new law follows similar efforts in California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other states to strengthen civil and criminal anti-harassment laws. These laws impose a patchwork of requirements for employers with multistate operations to navigate. Corporate anti-harassment policies and training need to be adapted to comply with these new state law requirements.