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Is a small business exempt from law mandating training on sexual harassment?

Companies of all sizes are covered by the statute that requires them to have a program informing employees about what constitutes such unlawful behavior and what the remedies are, one lawyer says.

A small business on Long Island asks if

A small business on Long Island asks if it is exempt from a new state law requiring sexual harassment training in the workplace. Photo Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto/fizkes

DEAR CARRIE: We are a small business on Long Island. We have been seeing notices about the new state law requiring sexual harassment training in the workplace. Can you tell me if small companies are exempted from a formal training program? We have fewer than seven employees and find the price tag for the training program quite high. What's more, we are getting hit left and right with fees because of all the new laws. We do have a company account with a safety and compliance company, which sends us weekly topic sheets ranging from safety tips to workplace laws. We distribute the topic sheets to our employees, but we do not have a corporate training program in place. Is that acceptable? 

  — Training Concerns

DEAR CARRIE: There are no exceptions for size, one employment lawyer said.

"The law applies to all employers, both public and private, so long as there are one or more employees," said employment attorney Jessica Moller, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Garden City.  "The law requires that all newly hired employees be trained as soon as possible; that all current employees be trained no later than Oct. 9, 2019, and thereafter that all employees be trained on an annual basis."

As a result, she said, "Distributing information sheets will not satisfy the law’s requirement to provide sexual-harassment training."

She said the new law requires the training to be interactive and to meet "legally mandated minimum standards."

The training, she said, must include an explanation of sexual harassment based on guidance issued by the state Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights; must include examples of conduct that would constitute sexual harassment; information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions about sexual harassment; remedies available to victims of sexual harassment; information concerning employees’ rights of redress; and all available forums for handling complaints and information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors.

Thanks for the question. I hope the answer will help you and other small-business owners.

DEAR READERS:  Several readers responded to last week's column about the full-timer who is scheduled to work the entire school year as a teacher's replacement but receives no benefits. His wife wanted to know if that was legal. Here is a sample of some of the comments: 

"I read with interest the letter from Concerned Wife regarding the lack of health benefits for her husband who is in a leave replacement position in a Long Island school district.  I, too, am a substitute teacher who has held leave replacement positions and, while seemingly unfair, if the leave is not contracted, he will likely not be eligible for benefits.  If Concerned Wife's husband ever wishes to get a full-time, contracted teaching position, he may not want to involve attorneys to do any letter writing.  There are a select few districts on LI that do have substitute-teacher contracts. Perhaps he should teach there for any added protection a contract can provide." 

"I was a school district administrator for 25-plus years. The answer to the question about the substitute teacher is to contact the teacher’s union rep. Almost all school districts on LI are represented by unions and some include subs in their contract as teachers if they work a certain number of days in a row, usually 30 days. Once they reach that milestone they get full-time pay and whatever benefits are available to all teachers. Getting an attorney to write a letter means that that person is doomed to never work there again."

 Thanks to all who wrote in. 

Go to bit.ly/trainLI for more on the state law requiring training programs to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. 

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