The Three Village Chamber of Commerce is working with local businesses to ensure owners and employees are up to date when it comes to a new state law.
In October of 2018, New York State passed a law that requires all businesses, including churches and nonprofits, even if there is only one employee, to have a written sexual harassment policy and post it in a highly visible area, as well as provide each employee with a copy of the policy. All employees must be trained once a year and new employees soon after their start date, according to Christine Malafi, a senior partner with Ronkonkoma-based law firm Campolo, Middleton and McCormick.
Recently, Malafi led a discussion at the chamber’s March meeting titled “What the Sexual Harassment Law Means for Business.” The attorney shared insight into the new laws with local business owners and how they impact workplace policies and culture.
The discussion kicked off a new service where the chamber will sponsor two sexual harassment training workshops for employees of member and nonmember companies led by Malafi. The workshop will discuss what sexual harassment is, what one is allowed and not allowed to do and what to look for if harassment is suspected.
Malafi said she has found that many businesses aren’t up to date when it comes to their sexual harassment policies.
“It’s very important because it’s the MeToo era, and if someone makes a complaint against you or an employee, if you can’t check the boxes — yes, complied with this, yes, complied with that — you may find yourself facing liability,” she said.
Andy Polan, the Three Village chamber president, said the goal is to make the mandated training more accessible and affordable for members. An alternative for business owners, he said, would be to work directly with an attorney or insurance carrier who specializes in the law or take an online course. He said he has heard such services could cost $1,500 or more per business or practice, which he said can be a big hit for a small business or nonprofit.
“We want to help our members, and it’s adding value to their membership,” Polan said.
Malafi said the new law now covers independent contractors and other contracted workers.
In the last few years, Malafi said she has seen an increase in sexual harassment cases.
“The number of cases filed with the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and similar agencies have doubled in the past few years,” she said, adding she doesn’t think actual occurrences have doubled, but people are more likely to report offensive language or action.
Workshops are scheduled for May 10 at 9 a.m. at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center and May 21 at 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express at Stony Brook. Rates for chamber members are $15 per employee and $25 per person for nonmembers.
Preregistration is required and can be made online at www.3vchamber.com or by check to Three Village Chamber, P.O. Box 6, East Setauket, NY 11733.