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New NY law: protections against workplace sexual harassment

If you have ever experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you understand how difficult reporting it can be. You have limited time to report the harassment and prove that it is real. Some workplaces may even try to force you to use arbitration, keeping your claims of harassment secret from the public. But a new law in New York hopes to reform the workplace sexual harassment and remove those barriers.

New York has taken steps to reform policies on sexual harassment in the workplace. A new bill signed into law in August will increase protections for victims of sexual harassment.

Scaling back the “severe and pervasive” threshold

The new harassment law eliminates the “severe and pervasive” requirement for sexual harassment accountability. Victims can take action for behavior that clearly crosses the line, even if it was a one-time incident.

Previously, victims would have to prove that the sexual harassment was repeated and created a hostile work atmosphere. Now, victims in New York will have a lower threshold for what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace.

Overriding nondisclosure agreements

Many New Yorkers signed confidentiality agreements as a condition of employment. The new law stipulates that nondisclosure agreements now must contain language that employees are free to report sexual harassment to government agencies and testify or cooperate with investigations, even if they have settled with the employer.

Elimination of forced arbitration for sexual harassment

The law also makes forced arbitration for sexual harassment cases illegal. While a victim can choose to use arbitration, a company cannot require it. This makes it harder for companies to cover up sexual harassment claims and write off arbitration payouts.

Longer statute of limitations

The statute of limitations for workplace sexual harassment has also increased. Instead of victims only having one year to report the harassment to the Division of Human Rights, they will now have three years. This gives victims more time to process what happened to them and choose to come forward.

Law hopes to make reporting easier

Reporting sexual harassment in your workplace can be a painful process. But not reporting it can mean that the perpetrator continues to create a hostile work environment for you (and maybe others). If you face sexual harassment, you may feel that coming forward is too difficult. These new laws hope to make it easier for you to report workplace sexual harassment.

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