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Employers must ensure compliance with harassment prevention training

August 13, 2021

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The failure of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to acknowledge he took part in sexual harassment prevention training — regulations that he signed into law — underscores the oversight that is necessary by every business to ensure employee compliance.

Annual sexual harassment prevention training is required by every business in New York, public and private, under a bill signed by Cuomo in October 2018.
Following the interactive training, employees must acknowledge their participation with a signature.

But Cuomo apparently took part in the training just once and he never signed the certificate of acknowledgment, according to New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ report on her investigation into sexual harassment allegations, allegations that led to the governor’s resignation on Tuesday.

The report says Cuomo did testify to reviewing the required training materials in 2019 but Stephanie Benton, office director for Cuomo, signed the compliance certificate.

The report also revealed Cuomo did not sign the required documents in 2018 or 2020, said Amanda Smith, senior associate at Tully Rinckey PLLC whose practice focus on employment law.

“You’d think since they were the ones pushing the law, they’d have signed off on it starting in 2018,” Smith said. “They’re not even compliant with the state labor law so what kind of training are they getting?”

Failure of an employee to acknowledge attendance in the training session can lead to liability issues for an employer, should claims of sexual harassment arise with that employee.

“It takes away a lot of the affirmative defenses,” Smith said. “The Department of Labor can take action so a you need to be sure employees are compliant. You want to avoid any unnecessary payouts.”

Annual sexual harassment prevention training is required by every business in New York, public and private, under a bill signed by Cuomo in October 2018.

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