Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Certain public civil service employees cannot be disciplined or removed from office without receiving civil service protections described in Section 75 of New York Civil Service Law, including written notice of charges, and a full civil service hearing. Until this week, those in the "Labor Class" were not entitled to those procedures until completing 5 years of employment.

On September 7, 2018, Civil Service Law Section 75 was amended, to extend rights to labor class employees.  The amended law is effective immediately.  If you are a public employer and have any employees who fall within the "labor" civil service classification, they are now protected pursuant to Section 75. If you are an employee in this category, you are entitled to civil service protections before you are suspended, reprimanded, fined, or terminated.

This does not alter the rights that employee receive through union collective bargaining agreements.

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  • Laura Matlow Wong-Pan

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

NYS Releases Releases Model Sexual Harassment Policy

The New York State Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights released a model sexual harassment policy and complaint form that employers may adopt, to comply with the new State law intended to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. The State is soliciting comments until September 12, 2018 regarding this policy, so it is technically just a draft.

Employers must adopt sexual harassment policies that meet minimum standards by October 2018. According to the FAQ’s, “all employees must complete the model training (link) or a comparable training that meets the minimum standards (link) by January 1, 2019.” Employers are not required to use the model policy created by the State as long as their policy meets state guidelines.

Employers training programs must meet minimum standards to comply with the new state law. They must, for instance, be interactive and not in a purely lecture format. They must contain an explanation of sexual harassment and examples of sexually harassing conduct, so that it is clear for employees to understand what type of conduct is considered to be unlawful. Training must include information concerning employee’s rights to file complaints, and all of the different agencies and forums for filing complaints of sexual harassment. There must also be information about how to file a complaint if the employee’s supervisor is engaging in the improper conduct.

What are the next steps?

Comments are being accepted until September 12, 2018. After that, there may be some changes to the model policy and other guidance, based on the comments the agency receives.

Please feel free to contact Law Office of Laura Wong-Pan PLLC with any questions related to sexual harassment in the workplace, including training and preventive practices.

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  • Laura Matlow Wong-Pan

Just last week, the Ulster County Legislature adopted The Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act of 2018. The Ulster County Commission of Human Rights has already been active, thanks to a provision in the Ulster County Charter creating the Commission. They now have a larger mandate, including the enforcement of the Human Rights Protection Act of 2018.

The stated purpose of the Human Rights Protection Act is to grant the Human Rights Commission the authority to hold conferences, and mediate or conciliate the resolution of discrimination complaints. The Human Rights Protect Act also allows for the appointment of a Hearing Officer to hold hearings to decide the merits of discrimination complaints filed with the Commission.

If a decision of liability is made by the Hearing Officer, money damages payable to the complaining party may be assessed of not more than $20,000, along with non-monetary relief that the Hearing Officer believes is just and proper.

Unlike the relief allowed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are no awards of attorneys fees for the prevailing party.

It will be interesting to see how frequently complainants take advantage of this local process, rather than pursuing a claim in the Division of Human Rights, at the EEOC, or in State or Federal Court. Potential damage awards for discrimination are capped at $20,000, which is significantly less than a complainant may receive in any other forum, or in front of a jury, However, some complainants litigate for the principle of the matter, not seeking a financial windfall. The potentially quick resolution of difficult conflicts could be attractive to a litigant who does not want to commit time or money to a full-blown lawsuit.

There are open questions as to how the hearing will be run, including whether the rules of evidence apply, whether the trials are open to the public, whether either party would be entitled to pre-hearing discovery, including depositions and sharing of information. The Local Law delegates authority to the Hearing Officer to adopt procedures for running the hearing. Is this process going to provide an effective remedy for complainants? The Legislature appeared to have devoted substantial time and effort into this Local Law, with the goal of remedying discrimination on a local level. We will be reading up on further developments and will try to report back on how it's going.

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