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Will new rules prevent sexual harassment?

City of New York

New regulations to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace are now in effect in New York State.

Starting Oct. 9, every business and nonprofit - regardless of size - must have a sexual harassment policy in place that meets state standards. A written copy must also be provided to each employee.

Labor and Employment Attorney Robert Weissflach, a partner at Harter Secrest & Emery LLP in Buffalo, cited some examples of harassment.

Attorney Robert Weissflach
Credit Harter Secrest & Emery LLP

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"Unwelcomed or inappropriate touching of another employee or sexually charged jokes, hitting on a co-worker and being told 'no' and persisting, that type of thing, are the typical examples that you see in the policy," Weissflach said.

Under the law, the policy must prohibit sexual harassment, provide examples of prohibited conduct, include a complaint form and a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints.

"They always have the opportunity to go to someone in management or human resources and make a complaint," he said, "and even existing policies prior to today should have had some sort of complaint mechanism in them. They're required to now."

Employers are also required to provide their workers with annual training.

Company policies must clearly state that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and sanctions will be enforced against the perpetrators and managers who knowingly allow it to continue. Employees must also be notified that retaliation against individuals who complain or assist in any investigation of sexual harassment is unlawful. 

Mark Wozniak, WBFO's local All Things Considered host, has been at WBFO since mid-1978.