As part of New York State’s ongoing effort to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, on March 16, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law an amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law requiring that the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) establish a confidential statewide toll-free hotline to provide free advice to employees about workplace sexual harassment issues. The law took effect on July 14, 2022. On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, Governor Hochul announced the new hotline number: 1-800-HARASS-3 (1-800-427-2773).
Under the law, the hotline is to be staffed by “attorneys experienced in providing counsel related to sexual harassment matters” on a pro bono (free) basis. The attorneys staffing the hotline, as well as their employees and agents, are prohibited from soliciting any person they advise for further representation, meaning that the attorneys cannot use the hotline as a means to obtain clients. The law also directs the DHR to work with the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure that information about the hotline is included in any materials employers must post or provide to employees regarding sexual harassment. As a result of the new law, it is expected that the DOL will soon require employers to modify their sexual harassment policies and required sexual harassment postings to include information about the hotline and, therefore, employers should be prepared to do so.
The law’s enactment is also a timely reminder that all New York State employers should ensure that they are continuing to provide all of their employees with the required annual New York State sexual harassment prevention training.