In March 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation amending the New York State Human Rights Law to establish a sexual harassment hotline directly to the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR). The hotline (800-HARASS-3), which is now active, is intended to be staffed by pro bono lawyers experienced in counseling individuals on sexual harassment. Contact with the hotline does not constitute the filing of a harassment complaint, and individuals intending to file a complaint with the NYSDHR would still be required to follow existing procedures for doing so.
Although further guidance to employers will be forthcoming, the amendment requires the NYSDHR to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that “information on the hotline is included in any materials employers must post or provide to employees.” Consequently, in addition to including information on workplace postings, employee policies and handbooks will need to be revised to inform employees of the hotline and its provision of free legal advice and counsel.
The extent to which legal advice and counsel is provided remains to be seen, although the law prohibits the volunteer lawyers from soliciting individuals, who contact the hotline, for further representation.
We will keep you informed on further developments related to this issue once further guidance is issued.