On March 16, 2022, New York Governor Hochul signed two important laws to strengthen protections against workplace harassment and retaliation. S.5870 prohibits the release of personnel files as a retaliatory action against employees and S.812B establishes a toll-free confidential hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment

Legislation S.812B requires the Division of Human Rights to establish and operate a toll-free confidential hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment.

Nearly 75% of all sexual harassment and many victims of workplace sexual harassment are unable to exercise their legal rights because they are unaware of their rights. According to a press release by Governor Hochul, the hotline aims “to connect complainants with experienced pro-bono attorneys who will help make them aware of their legal rights and advise them on the specifics of their individualized cases.”

Starting July 14, 2022, this hotline will be accessible, at minimum, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Division of Human Rights will recruit attorneys experienced in providing legal advice in sexual harassment matters to assist callers. The Division will also work with the Department of Labor to ensure that information on the hotline is included in materials employers provide to employees regarding sexual harassment.

The second piece of signed legislation, S.5870, establishes that the release of personnel records to discredit victims of workplace discrimination counts as a retaliatory action under the Human Rights Law. Previously, the Human Rights Law prohibited all forms of retaliation against complainants. This law clarifies that the disclosure of an employee’s personnel records because an employee has opposed unlawful discriminatory practices, filed a complaint, or assisted in a proceeding is a form of retaliatory action unless disclosure is necessary to comply with an investigation.

The legislation also grants the New York Attorney General power to commence an action or proceeding in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, if, upon information or belief, the Attorney General is of the opinion that an employer has been, is, or is about to violate the provisions regarding unlawful discriminatory retaliation.

This law takes immediate effect.