Ways New York Employers Can Ensure Compliant Sexual Harassment Policies in 2023

The television show Criminal Minds is produced by ABC Signature Studios (Studios), a unit of Disney Corporation.  The show is a dramatization of behavioral analysts that work with law enforcement to solve violent crimes.  (Law360, December 20, 2022, Emmy Freedman).

On December 16, 2022, the show’s drama became reality when Studios was forced to pay a $3 million settlement due to allegations that Gregory St. Johns, the show’s director of photography, sexually harassed male crew members and then retaliated against them for complaining of the misconduct.  In addition to paying the settlement the Studios must also train production and human resources employees.

The crew members alleged that for over 14 years, Mr. St. Johns created a hostile work environment through repeated sexual harassment, including non-consensual touching.  It was also alleged that the show’s executive team was aware of the toxic culture created by the sexual harassment.

Workplace sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal laws. 

In a recent statement, Elizabeth Cannon, a regional director with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, provided insight into the obligation employers have to address systemic sexual misconduct with the announcement that, “…There is no justification for failing to take action once a company becomes aware of allegations of sexual harassment…” 

As we are at that the top of 2023, employers have an opportunity to review their Sexual Harassment Policy to ensure compliance with New York Labor Law Section 201-g which mandates in pertinent part that:

  • Employers with employees working any portion of their time in New York, must train new and current employees on federal and state sexual harassment laws and the remedies available to complainants of sexual harassment;
  • employees must be provided with information on how their employer handles sexual harassment complaints.
  • online sexual harassment trainings must be interactive (e.g. questions are provided and employees must select the right answer);
  • sexual harassment trainings should include employee feedback surveys;
  • additional or separate trainings should be provided to supervisors or managers;
  • sexual harassment trainings must be done annually (e.g. based on calendar year, or employee start date).
  • employers should maintain training records which could prove useful in defending against future lawsuits.

Sexual harassment trainings need not be viewed as an inconvenience or a box to be checked by management, instead these trainings are a way to reiterate company values, highlight the business vision and avoid legal exposure.

To learn more about customized Respect in the Workplace Trainings for your company…