New York State Senate Passes Bill Banning Mandatory Arbitration for Sexual Harassment Claims

Bill Also Requires Court Approval of Sexual Harassment Settlement Agreements with Confidentiality Provisions March 15, 2018
On March 12, 2018, the New York State Senate passed Senate Bill No. 7848A by a vote of 56 to 2, which, among other things, would: 1) ban contractual provisions that mandate arbitration of sexual harassment claims; 2) require court approval of sexual harassment settlement agreements with confidentiality provisions, and provide that such provisions are not permitted unless it is the claimant’s “preference” that the agreement be confidential; 3) adopt a uniform definition of “sexual harassment” in the State employment statutes; and 4) extend employer liability for sexual harassment to independent contractors and other non-employees in an employer’s workplace. The Bill also requires all state contractors to adopt anti-sexual harassment policies and training programs. Finally, the Bill tasks the Department of Labor to create a model policy related to sexual harassment.

Governor Cuomo has made similar proposals as part of his proposed budget, but his proposed legislation is more sweeping than Senate Bill No. 7848A. Among other things, Governor Cuomo’s bill proposes banning mandatory arbitration clauses in all employment agreements.

The Senate Bill and Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget will now be considered by the New York State Assembly. The State’s fiscal year begins on April 1, so the Assembly is likely to take some action on the issue in the coming weeks.

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