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By: Kaitlyn Grajek
New York employers should brace for a prospective uptick in sexual harassment claims as a statewide toll-free confidential hotline became active on July 14, 2022. According to a Press Release by the New York State Senate Democratic Majority, the legislation establishing the hotline was enacted to “ensure all employees in both the private and public sectors have the needed resources available to seek accountability.”
Accordingly, individuals who allege workplace sexual harassment can now call the hotline to seek guidance. The hotline is operated by the New York State Division of Human Rights (“NYSDHR”) and will be staffed with experienced lawyers providing pro bono legal counsel to callers. Under the new law, New York employers are required to update their sexual harassment materials and disseminate information regarding the hotline to employees.
Notably, the hotline is exclusively reserved for allegations relating to sexual harassment, not claims for any other employment related issues.
The new law expressly forbids attorneys providing pro bono hotline advice from taking further steps to solicit representation from the callers they assist. However, a substantial loophole exists in which hotline attorneys can enter into lucrative arrangements with other plaintiffs’ attorneys participating in the program whereby they repeatedly refer each other to individual callers for legal representation. Moreover, given that the calls are confidential, it could be difficult for the state to oversee and enforce the solicitation prohibition requirements in the law.
Employers who need assistance ensuring that their sexual harassment policies and procedures are in compliance with this new law, or who would like more information, should contact Kaitlyn Grajek or your local FMG lawyer.