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City council passes Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act

The New York City Council has sent a package of bills called the "Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act" to Mayor Bill de Blasio's desk. The legislation, which if signed would go into effect next April, notably contains an anti-sexual harassment training mandate aimed at supervisors and managers in private companies with 15 or more employees.

The legislation asks the city's Commission on Human Rights develop an "online interactive" training program that companies could use to satisfy the new training requirement. Over 30,000 businesses could newly be required to provide the training, according to the New York Times. Those who fail to provide the training could face financial penalties starting at $500.

Some of the other aspects of the proposal include:

  • Reporting requirements for city agencies and contractors
  • A system for surveying city agencies in order to prompt disclosure of potential problems
  • A requirement that private employers display a poster with examples of sexual harassment and a list of government agencies victims can contact
  • Extending the statute of limitation for sexual harassment claims from one to three years

As for the new anti-sexual harassment training requirement, some have been skeptical. In fact, in 2016 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a report criticizing anti-harassment training as a prevention tool, saying "it's been too focused on simply avoiding liability." The report pointed to the fact that companies often rely on "cookie-cutter" training programs when tailoring trainings to the specific workplace is more effective.

Other research shows that some anti-harassment and discrimination trainings result in male employees feeling blamed, angry and isolated. Some experts say that it's more effective to focus trainings on bystander intervention instead of on trying to dissuade men from engaging in harassment.

"We've seen with the #MeToo movement and the Time's Up movement that there has been a dark, secretive, dangerous current and epidemic of sexual harassment," said the city council's speaker. "This is a way to address that and hopefully be on the leading edge of trying to do something legislatively that's going to protect more people."

The bill's supporters say they have been collaborating with Mayor de Blasio and he is supportive of the concepts.

Do you think that requiring new training and reporting will be effective at reducing sexual harassment? Does it depend on the details?

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