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New Yorkers: A Guide to Documenting Your Sexual Harassment Policy

The upcoming sexual harassment prevention laws in New York State will make it a requirement for companies to conduct training in sexual harassment with all employees once a year.

This is a significant addition to any HR practitioner’s plate, and with all the considerations that go into choosing and rolling out a training solution, it’s easy to forget that the law also requires updates to every organization’s sexual harassment policies.

We’re here to help. To simplify that process, we’ve worked with our outside legal counsel, Dan Obuhanych of Silicon Valley Workplace Law, to put together a guide to ensure your policy complies with the new laws, and to help you manage and investigate harassment complaints that may arise.

Developing a Policy

If you don’t have one already, your organization must develop and share a sexual harassment policy that contains minimum standards as outlined by the state. Alternately, you can adopt the model policy from the New York State Division of Human Rights. Here’s what a compliant sexual harassment policy will do:

  1. Clearly prohibit sexual harassment
  2. Provide examples of what is sexual harassment
  3. State that harassment is illegal under federal, state, and sometimes local laws, and discuss the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
  4. Include a complaint form – this is the designated form employees will use for reporting harassment
  5. Include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints – this ensures due process for all parties
  6. Inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints
  7. Clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct; it should say that sanctions will be enforced against individuals who engage in sexual harassment and against managers who knowingly let harassment continue
  8. Clearly state that it’s unlawful to retaliate against employees who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding

Developing a Complaint Form

Under New York State law, you must provide employees with a standard form for filing a sexual harassment complaint. Keep in mind that this is the vehicle for employees to report harassment, so it’s crucial that it include all the necessary information and that it’s clear to anyone who needs it.

Your company’s complaint form should do each of the following things:

  • Review the employee’s rights: You should clearly ask the employee to submit the form as soon as possible if they have been the victim of harassment or witnessed it against another employee. You should also state that the employee is protected from any potential retaliation.
  • Request employee information: Ask the employee to submit their name, title, work contact information (including email, phone number, and office location, if applicable).
  • Request supervisor information: Regardless of who’s being accused of harassment, ask the employee to name their direct manager, including the manager’s title and contact information.
  • Request details on the complaint: Ask the employee to name the person who harassed them, including that person’s contact information, if applicable. Ask them for their relationship to this person (e.g., is the alleged harasser a supervisor, subordinate, or direct colleague?). Also ask for the dates of harassment, and make the complainant specify whether the harassment is still ongoing.
  • Ask for witnesses: If there are witnesses to the alleged harassment, ask the employee for the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the alleged harassment.
  • Ask for other legal details: You may also ask the employee if they have filed a complaint with a local, state, or federal agency, whether they have begun a lawsuit, and whether they have retained an attorney about the harassment.

A sample complaint form is available here.

Filing an Investigation Report

A sexual harassment investigation report doesn’t need to be complicated as long as it addresses the central questions of the investigation. Here’s what it should include:

  • A summary: Your summary of the investigation should list pertinent facts (e.g., the dates when it took place, the person being accused of harassment, and the number of people interviewed).
  • Individuals Interviewed: This should include the individuals’ titles and the date when you spoke with each of them.
  • Key findings: This should state the overall factual (but not legal) conclusion of your investigation (e.g., “Gary F., on several occasions, made inappropriate advances on female employees against their consent). That said, you should avoid concluding whether such conduct constituted “sexual harassment.” That is a legal conclusion, not a factual one. Finally, as much as possible, the report should include quotes from individuals interviewed in the investigation, as well as specific details on examples provided and, when possible, the date of each incident.

And remember, don’t feel you need to approach an investigation by yourself, especially if harassment investigations fall outside your expertise. The process should be conducted by someone with experience or training in conducting workplace investigations, such as a senior HR leader or general counsel.

The Importance of Being Prepared

When sexual harassment occurs, it’s a difficult matter for all involved. The new guidance from New York State seeks to standardize how employers approach harassment and ensure that all parties are treated fairly and consistently.

For more information about the upcoming State and City laws, we invite you to view a recording of our recent webinar here.

New York Sexual Harassment Training Requirement

Learn Better Microlearning

While You Were Out: Content Releases from the Summer

We’re a few weeks past Labor Day, which means no more white pants, cooler weather (we hope), and the end of summer Fridays. It’s no secret that summer can typically be a slow time, when people take vacations and focus a little more on the “life” side of the work-life balance equation. But now that we’re heading into fall and can see Q4 right around the corner, we’re ready to get back into full swing.

So as you get back up to speed, we thought we’d offer a refresher on the content we’ve released this summer that can help you drive learning goals and finish the year strong.

Ethical Leadership

Leaders set the parameters for what is and is not allowed in their organizations, so leading and acting ethically is key to making sure the entire team acts the same way. Knowing the pitfalls, as well as best practices for leading ethically, can help keep your practices inline with your “preaching,” and keep your company on the straight and narrow. Take a look at one of our lessons, What Ethical Leadership Looks Like.

Workplace Safety

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one million Americans suffer from a slip, trip, or fall injury every year. In 2017, there were as many hurricanes as the previous fifty-six years combined, bringing up many weather-related safety concerns. And a 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workplace homicides increased by more than six times between 2015 and 2016—and 79 percent were shootings.

Keeping employees safe isn’t just about recognizing and preventing common hazards—it’s also about building a culture where everyone is accountable for minimizing risk, and proactive about protecting themselves and their coworkers. Get started on ensuring you have a safe and respectful workplace by watching one of our new lessons, Know Your Response to an Active Shooter.

Making Tough Decisions

Going through a rational decision making process—gathering facts and weighing the pros and cons, etc.—is great when you can come away with a clear “right” decision, but what about when there isn’t a clear right? The truth is that rational decision making only gets us so far, and tough decisions are tough because sometimes there’s no right way to go. So what do you do? You make the best decision you can.

Research has shown that the average person makes about 35,000 decisions a day, most of them with relative ease. But for the tough ones where you could use a little extra support, we can help you navigate and ultimately move forward with the best decision, even if it lives in the gray. Start by taking one of our lessons, Avoid Decision Fatigue.

Working Across Cultures

For a long time, people dealt with any potential cultural differences through the cultural competence model: learn the rules of the culture you’re working with, follow them, and you’ll be fine. But modern employees are more complex than their cultures, interactions are more nuanced, and you don’t always know in advance who you’ll be meeting with or what will help them feel comfortable. We need a new model for working effectively with all sorts of different people. We need to move from Cultural Competence to Cultural Intelligence—a model for interacting with anyone in a way that is responsive to and respectful of differences.

The ability to work with different cultures is becoming more and more relevant, and making the skill of being responsive to cultural differences is more and more necessary. Take the first step in your own journey with one of our new lessons, What Is Cultural Intelligence?

Data Privacy

When we ask for data from customers, employees, and others, we’re asking for their trust. Especially in an age where we’re bombarded with news of companies who’ve misused data or been breached, gaining that trust—and deserving that trust—can be difficult. Providing assurance of data privacy and using data privacy best practices can help.

As the world becomes more and more reliant on data, data privacy is becoming more and more important to all of us. Start learning how to do it at your company with one of our lessons, The Risks of Mishandling Data.

Building Productive Habits

A 2006 study by Duke University shows that habits comprise over 40% of the actions we take every day. So if you want to make any long-term changes in your productivity, well-being, or job performance, it makes sense to look closely at your daily routine. Understanding how our brains form habits and how we can replace them, is the key to taking actions that will support long-term changes and improvements in productivity. To get started building your own productive habits, start by taking one of our new lessons, Replace an Unproductive Habit.

There’s Plenty More Coming Up

We’re certainly not going to slow down now that summer’s over. If anything, we’re just heating up. Over the next few months we’ll be doubling down on our Data Security content, diving deeper into financial ethics with Anti-Money Laundering content, releasing our first sales enablement content made in partnership with Sandler Training, and further building out our leadership content with Executive Presence training built in partnership with Lange International.

Stay tuned for more updates and content releases every Monday by subscribing to our blog from the red banner up top.

Future of Learning Work Happier

How Meetings & Incentives Worldwide Streamlined Onboarding

We’re big fans of Meetings & Incentives Worldwide. A Grovo customer since 2016, M&IW plans more than 3,000 live events every year, from conferences to team meetings to sales and channel incentive events. With the company growing fast and onboarding new employees across 24 states and two countries, Kristie Rogers, Manager, Training & Recruiting, relies on Grovo to help her make sure every new hire has a great first week and quickly gets ramped up with everything they need to know about the company, including software, processes, policies, and client account statuses.  

We spoke with Kristie to get her tips on how to succeed as a mighty training team of two.

1. Gotta keep it automated

As Kristie says, “triggers have made life a whole lot easier!” Kristie has set up Grovo Campaigns that use the New Hire Onboarding” trigger. Then, any time a new hire is added to Grovo, they are automatically assigned relevant lessons on general policies, processes and values, as well as overviews of each department in the company, required data privacy and GDPR content, and sexual harassment prevention training to reinforce expectations for a productive, safe environment from day one.

As a result of having the Campaigns triggered automatically, rather than having to assign each one to each individual manually, Kristie has reduced human error in the rush of a new hire’s first week and added valuable time back into her own schedule.

2. Give employees a reason to care right *now*

When Grovo was first rolled out as the company’s central LMS, content library, and course authoring tool, there was a little bit of the usual fear of change. But employees quickly got on board after getting buy-in from leadership (more on that), then introducing Grovo over a company-wide email, and timing it to coincide with yearly mandatory privacy and security training. By getting people into the platform with a specific purpose from the start, Kristie ensured everyone would see how simple and easy it was to engage in Grovo from any device.

Now, she gets regular feedback from employees traveling to execute client events completing their training on their phone from an airport lounge, or hotel room in, say, Singapore.

3. Get leadership on board

Going back to those new hire onboarding assignments – this was one of the ways Kristie got a lot of buy-in for what she was accomplishing with Grovo. Department managers no longer needed to do rote presentations every new hire week, but instead worked with Kristie to create Grovo lessons to introduce their department, ultimately freeing up their time while still providing valuable information to new hires.

And on the compliance side, the VP of IT loves that he doesn’t have to bombard new hires with privacy and security training for hours at a time. Employees can complete the training at their own pace, and the VP and Kristie also have a handy record of who’s completed the training and whether they’ve passed the assessments.

4. Go with the flow

“I originally had a beautiful training plan with every single month laid out. Things happened, like the #MeToo movement and GDPR taking effect, so we’ve pivoted quickly to make sure the training we highlight is relevant to the world at large,” said Kristie.

Kristie added, “Go with the flow on the pulse of the company.” Big product launch or annual company meeting coming up? Make sure you’re not requiring training right when employees won’t reasonably be able to keep it top of mind, no matter how engaging the format of that training is.

5. Know what you’ll do with all your new free time

“I can better serve the rest of the company with Grovo,“ said Kristie. By automating as much as possible, and creating organizational muscle memory around using Grovo, Kristie has been able to dive into initiatives she never had time for before.

Kristie now works closely on M&IW’s corporate social responsibility, a personal interest she’s had since her college days. And she’s also been able to get experts and leaders within the company using Grovo’s Create tool to create impactful Microlearning lessons, with M&IW’s branding automatically added to the template. For example, an account lead can get new hires and remote employees across time zones quickly on the same page by creating lessons that document the latest status of a client’s account.

“People are starting to create content themselves in Grovo. Grovo is now the platform they go back to for information,” said Kristie.

Kristie’s final word of advice to her L&D peers? “Don’t forget to use everything Grovo has to offer. It’s all there to make our lives easier!”