As you may already know, New York State made some big changes to its sexual harassment laws this year. You can read more about those changes here.
One of the new changes prohibits mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims. This means employers can’t automatically avoid court by requiring these kinds of claims to be privately arbitrated. Another change is that State law now bars most non-disclosure agreements.
Employers often use non-disclosure provisions to settle sexual harassment claims because confidentiality – that is, keeping the resolution out of the public eye – has significant value to most companies. Starting soon, however, non-disclosure provisions can’t be used without certain requirements being fulfilled.
Effective July 11, 2018, a New York employer can’t automatically include confidentiality in a sexual harassment settlement agreement unless:
- The claimant prefers confidentiality;
- The claimant was given at least 21 days to consider the settlement agreement’s confidentiality language; and
- After signing off, the claimant was given an additional seven days to revoke the agreement, that is, to change her mind.
Is there any silver lining for employers? Well, for now, these changes only impact sexual harassment claims. At this time they don’t apply to claims of harassment and discrimination that are made on any other grounds.
As July 11th fast approaches, employers facing a claim of sexual harassment should work with competent counsel to ensure their rights are protected, including options surrounding the settlement of sexual harassment claims as well as language used around arbitration for employment-related claims.
If you’re a New York employer facing a claim of harassment or discrimination, the attorneys at The Coppola Firm can help.