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January 9, 2024

Legal News

January 9, 2024

Protecting Independent Contractors From Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an issue that can affect individuals across various employment scenarios. Many people mistakenly believe that protections against sexual harassment are limited to traditional employees, but in New York State, the law is clear: independent contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, and anyone providing services in the workplace are also covered.

New York State's Human Rights Law extends its safeguards to a wide range of individuals, including those often referred to as independent contractors, "gig" workers, and temporary workers, as well as those providing various services through contracts with employers. In this article, we will explore how New York State's Human Rights Law covers independent contractors.

The misconception that only traditional employees are protected from sexual harassment has been dispelled by New York State's Human Rights Law. It recognizes the diverse nature of the modern workforce and strives to ensure that all individuals providing services in a workplace are safeguarded from harassment and other discriminatory actions, including sexual harassment.

Covered individuals under the law include a wide array of workers. This comprehensive approach includes:

  1. Independent Contractors: Independent contractors are individuals who perform work for a company but are not considered traditional employees. They often have a contractual relationship with an employer, and their work may be project-based or ongoing. New York State's Human Rights Law extends protections to these contractors, ensuring they can work in a harassment-free environment.
  2. "Gig" Workers: In today's gig economy, many individuals work on a per-task or per-project basis for various companies. These "gig" workers, who may not have the traditional structure of employment, are also covered by the law, making sure that they are not subjected to sexual harassment while on the job.
  3. Temporary Workers: Temporary workers, often employed through staffing agencies, play a vital role in many industries. They too enjoy protection against sexual harassment under the law, regardless of the temporary nature of their employment.
  4. Service Providers: The law's inclusivity also extends to individuals providing services to an employer under a contract, such as equipment repair, cleaning services, or any other specialized services. These workers are not exempt from the law's protections, ensuring a safe and respectful workplace.

Under New York State's Human Rights Law, covered individuals have the right to be free from sexual harassment and other discriminatory behaviors in any location where they are providing services. The law explicitly prohibits unwelcome advances, comments, or any other form of sexual harassment that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment.

Key provisions of the law include:

  1. Employer Accountability: Employers are held accountable for ensuring that all workers, including independent contractors and others covered by the law, are protected from sexual harassment. Employers must take steps to prevent harassment, investigate complaints promptly, and take appropriate action to address any violations.
  2. Reporting Mechanisms: The law requires employers to establish clear reporting mechanisms for individuals to bring forward complaints of sexual harassment. This empowers victims to seek assistance and ensures that their concerns are taken seriously.
  3. Retaliation Prohibition: New York State's Human Rights Law also prohibits retaliation against individuals who report sexual harassment. This provision is crucial in creating an environment where individuals feel safe coming forward with their complaints.

The rules and regulations pertaining to sexual harassment are strictly enforced and needs to be complied with.  The attorneys at Outside Legal Counsel LLP can help businesses comply with the law and employees/contractors who have been aggrieved by Employers. Please reach out to us for more information about our services and how we can help.  

This is not legal advice and is attorney advertising.

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