Employer Insights

New York Sexual Harassment Laws - The Complete Guide for 2024

by Lisa Scibetta, on Mar 22, 2024 3:00:13 PM

In New York State, employers must ensure their business abides by New York sexual harassment laws. Here is everything employers in New York State need to understand in order to maintain compliance with state sexual harassment laws.

New York Sexual Harassment Law Overview

Under New York State Sexual Harassment Laws, employees have the right to work in a sexual harassment-free workplace. 

New York employers should be aware of the rules and regulations regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. These include harassment definitions, policy and training requirements, the process for which complaints are filed, as well as penalties and repercussions for non-compliance.

What Is Sexual Harassment in New York?

Under New York Labor Laws, there are several different actions that fall under the category of sexual harassment. These can come in the form of actions that are traditionally seen as harassment, as well as certain types of gender discrimination.

Types of gender-related discrimination that are also seen as sexual harassment include:

  • Repeated refusal to use a person’s name, pronouns, or title
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Requiring medical history
  • Requiring uniforms and grooming standards based on gender
  • Gender-discriminatory employee benefits

Other types and forms of sexual harassment include:

  • Being used as the basis for hiring or employment decisions, such as raises, promotions
  • The harasser is a co-worker or a supervisor in a position of power
  • A client or customer
  • Harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment
  • Sexually offensive jokes and remarks
  • Sexually aggressive nature
  • Requests of sexual favors
  • Unwanted touching and or groping
  • The displaying of pornographic images
  • Sexual gestures or comments

Who is Protected from Sexual Harassment in New York?

Regardless of sexual orientation or gender, any individual who may be an employee, paid or unpaid intern, non-employee, or independent contractor is protected by New York State Sexual Harassment laws.

Employer Responsibilities

Employer responsibilities under New York State Sexual Harassment Law include three main requirements.

  • Provide employees with a notice regarding sexual harassment prevention
  • Ensure that their handbooks include a policy on sexual harassment
  • Ensure the proper training is administered to all members of the organization

Notice to Employees

Upon being hired, employees must receive a sexual harassment prevention notice that includes the sexual harassment policy of the company and all information included in the sexual harassment training. This notice should also be presented during annual training.

Sexual Harassment Policy

All employers in New York need to have a sexual harassment policy. This policy should be in New York employee handbooks and should be provided along with sexual harassment employee notices. 

While New York has a model policy for employers to adopt, employers can create their own policy so long as they meet certain requirements. 

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Under the New York State sexual harassment law, employers are required to have their staff complete New York State Workplace sexual harassment prevention training annually, regardless of an employee's employment classification.

Employers seeking assistance with ensuring that the proper training is being administered within their organization, or employers looking for training programs and resources, should consider contacting a New York HR company for help.

Any new hires must also complete the training within 30 days of their start date, even if the rest of the organization has already completed the training for the year.

How to File a Complaint in New York for Sexual Harassment

Employees experiencing sexual harassment should file a complaint as soon as possible. If an employee files a complaint, a prompt, thorough, and confidential (if possible) investigation should be completed within 30 days.

Employees who have fallen victim to sexual harassment in the workplace should first contact the individual or office that has been designated to receive such complaints by their employer. Afterward, there a number of other options available:

Consult an Attorney

After reporting the incident to an employer, employees are advised to consult an attorney who will be able to explain all the available options and courses of action possible. It is important to understand specific procedures and time limits that pertain to filing a complaint within the deadline.

Filing with the Office of the New York State Attorney General (OAG) Civil Rights Bureau

For employees who choose to proceed with reporting their experience to the Civil Rights Bureau, the Bureau may investigate and determine if the experiences or encounters are evidence of a pattern or practice of sexual harassment affecting a significant amount of people. 

The Bureau will decide whether to launch an investigation and/or initiate legal action against the employer in the representation of the People of the State of New York and not the individual who has made the complaint. As such, filing with the OAG is not a replacement for bringing a case to court.

New York State Division of Human Rights (SDHR)

Sexual harassment complaints may be brought to the SDHR regarding employers of any size. However, local human rights laws may differ from those of the State Human Rights Law in regards to what size employers may have a complaint made against them to the SDHR. 

Victims may file a complaint with the SDHR or proceed directly to court.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Employees may also bring complaints to the federal EEOC if their company has more than 15 employees. Employment discrimination complaints brought under federal law are to be investigated so long as the complaint is filed within 180 days of the harassment and the complaint is filed with the EEOC before commencing litigation

If the charge is covered by a state or local federal law, the filing deadline may be eligible to be extended to 300 days.

Protections from Employer Retaliation

Individuals who have made a complaint about sexual harassment are protected by law from retaliation. Retaliation may occur in the form of an employee's terms and conditions of work being unfavorably changed as a result of the employee reporting or cooperating with an investigation, complaint, or lawsuit. 

If you have been retaliated against, a separate claim can be filed in addition to any sexual harassment claim.

New York Sexual Harassment Penalties

Because sexual harassment is a serious offense, there are a variety of repercussions and penalties for those who break the law. The exact penalty is dependent on the severity of the harassment. 

Furthermore, violations of conduct that include physical touching, coerced physical confinement, or coerced sex acts, may classify as a crime.

Disciplinary Action

Disciplinary action for workplace sexual harassment can come in the form of written warnings, suspension without pay, and mandatory counseling for whoever has violated the policy of the organization.


Depending on the severity of the violation, perpetrators are subject to immediate termination from their job.


If an individual has violated New York State Sexual Harassment laws, violators can be held accountable and served civil penalties of up to $250,000.

Jail time

Depending on the severity and classification of the offense, violators can serve jail time for workplace sexual harassment violations.

Get Help with New York Sexual Harassment Laws

New York Sexual Harassment requirements and training are of the utmost importance and are not always easy to navigate without help.

Businesses looking for help with New York Sexual Harassment Law, are having trouble with their employee handbook and sexual harassment policy, or are struggling to administer the proper training, should seek assistance from a New York HR Outsourcing company.

Such companies can have many resources including model policies of their own, training programs, and other HR Outsourcing Services

If you are a New York employer, you can find an HR provider today or contact us for help.

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Guest Author: Lisa Scibetta
New York Sexual Harassment Laws

Lisa Scibetta is the Manager of HR Services at EBC HR & Payroll Solutions, a leading New York Payroll and HR provider, serving businesses throughout New York State and beyond. Lisa has over 30 years of experience in marketing, operations, human resources, and executive-level leadership. She has worked as an internal HR Business Partner, a business owner, and most recently as an HR Advisor. With a strong focus on HR compliance, employee relations, leadership development, and employee engagement, Lisa's expertise in wearing multiple hats provides her with a broad perspective to assist employers and employees in the HR space. She has earned an MBA, an SHRM-CP certification, and is pursuing her SPHR.

Topics:ComplianceHuman ResourcesState Labor LawsNew York Labor Laws

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