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New Revised Model Sexual Harassment Polices, Training and Forms

Over the past few years, fire districts and fire departments have been obligated to revise their policies and training programs due to changes in New York State’s requirements concerning the protection of personnel from workplace sexual harassment. Several years ago, the state enacted laws mandating that all public and private employers adopt written sexual harassment prevention policies, which were based on a model policy created by the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Division of Human Rights. These laws also stipulated that employers display posters in the workplace, provide a complaint form, and establish procedures for personnel to file complaints.  Furthermore, additional requirements were introduced for mandatory training, necessitating employers to develop training programs and provide training to all personnel at the start of their employment and annually thereafter.  Those laws also required the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Division of Human Rights to review and update the policies and training requirements every four years.   It is amazing how quickly the first four years have passed.   The New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Division of Human Rights drafted updated model documents in September of 2022 and presented them for public comment in January and February of 2023.  The agencies have recently granted approval for the final drafts, leading to the creation of new model policies and training programs. It is now the responsibility of fire districts and other public and private employers to update their policies, forms, and training in accordance with these developments.  A revised Model Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy and Complaint Form, specifically tailored for fire districts, has been prepared based on the updated model forms. These documents are now available for your review and consideration on our website [] under the Sample Forms and Policies tab in the Member Center. It is important to note that each Board of Fire Commissioners should thoroughly examine the new model documents and carefully consider the reporting structure they wish to establish. While all fire districts have a Board of Fire Commissioners and a Chief of the fire department, the management structure for paid staff may differ, including the presence of various managers and supervisors.

Blindly adopting the model documents from the website without customization could potentially result in your district listing a supervisor who does not exist in your management structure.   Boards can easily add the name of their fire district, but the model policy must be read and reviewed. It is worth mentioning that independent fire companies can adapt the model to their not- for- profit entity by substituting their names for “___ Fire District”. However, they will need to review each part of the model that discusses reporting and management structure to adapt it to their operation.

It is important to bear in mind that if your district, department, or company faces a discrimination complaint filed with the State Division of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Commission, or if a lawsuit is initiated against you in state or federal court, you will likely be obligated to submit your policy, forms, training program, and training records as part of the proceedings. It is crucial to address these matters proactively. By taking proactive measures, you can reduce the likelihood of conduct that leads to complaints and enhance your ability to defend against future claims.  Having the proper policy and training program in place is not a defense to claim or lawsuit, but it does lessen the likelihood that your personnel will engage in improper conduct.

The Sample Documents and Revised Policy is also available HERE: 060523_Fire_District_Sexual_Harassment_Prevention_Model_Policy