On May 9, Mayor Bill De Blasio signed the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, a package of 11 bills designed to enhance protections for both municipal and private employees, including those who work in large co-ops and condos. The new law requires all employers to post a sexual harassment policy and that businesses with 15 or more employees provide antisexual-harassment training every year. It also extends the statute of limitations for filing complaints from one year to three.
“The key for co-ops and condos is that there are many relationships, not just employer and employees,” says attorney Andrew Brucker, a partner at Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads. He notes that co-op corporations and condo associations consist of boards, shareholders or unit-owners, subletters, building staff, and contractors. “A good sexual harassment policy should discuss all those relationships.”
While the impetus behind the act is to protect workers, Brucker, a longtime advocate of such policies, notes that they also provide legal protection for co-op and condo boards. “One reason you’re doing this,” he says, “is so that no one sues the co-op or condo. The policy should define harassment, how it will be dealt with, and potential punishments. The policy should then be posted in a public place, such as the laundry room. Otherwise, it’s hard to claim it’s a known policy.”
The act is a direct response to the #MeToo movement, which was spawned by the revelations of sexual misconduct that have toppled powerful men in virtually every industry. De Blasio signed the law just days after New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned following claims that he had been physically violent with several women. Shortly after the signing, Brucker said: “This law is not a bad thing, but it’s more costs for large co-ops and condos. There are more and more things that management has to do.”
At the signing ceremony, City Council member Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Women, claimed proudly that the new law goes “further than any other laws in the country.”