A barrage of new laws have been unfolding across America in 2018 impacting the work environment for all employers…that is right, you may not be exempt from this employers. Common sense, combined with the law dating back to the 1960’s, makes it clear employees have a right to go to work free from harassment and discrimination. This sounds straight forward and quite simply appropriate; however, this has become complex.
The recent #MeToo movement in the last year has done both tremendous good and bad. On the positive side of the ledger, wrongdoers have been exposed and perhaps more importantly, those victims who are in work environments and being subjected to harassment or discrimination may have more courage, education, and increased outlets to bring these complaints forward. On the negative side of the ledger, there is increased potential for predatory claims looking for paydays when neither sexual harassment or discrimination exist.
Recent events have prompted legislators to react across the country. At the federal level, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has eliminated the deductions of sexual harassment claims and legal fees as expenses when nondisclosure agreements are part of the terms of the settlement. The New Jersey Senate has recently approved legislation that would ban nondisclosure agreements altogether for settlements of claims. There is another similar bill pending in the New Jersey State Assembly. New York State has already passed anti-sexual harassment legislation setting parameters around interactive training, policies, imposing liability for non-employees, and limits on nondisclosure agreement possibilities. New York City has also passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, putting requirements on employers with four (4) or more employees to have mandatory interactive sexual harassment training.
Bottom line, employers need understand how these environmental, social, and political issues are impacting their businesses and how to effectively handle their risk management. At minimum, it is a must to have the following in place:
- Anti-harassment and Anti-discrimination
- Complaint procedures
- Effective training
- Readiness to objectively investigate complaints
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