Article contributed by Olivia P. Hines, Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation into law which targets the prevention of human trafficking, some of which will directly impact employers in New York’s hospitality industry.
Governor Hochul proudly announced, after passing the new laws, that “we must do everything in our power to end the scourge of human trafficking and protect thousands of individuals who fall victim to this abhorrent practice in New York… New Yorkers should know the signs of human trafficking and be ready to lend a hand to stand up for victims. I’m proud to sign this legislative package, which includes campaigns that will spread awareness and help make a meaningful difference in thousands of lives.”
The purpose behind these laws is to raise public awareness of the warning signs of human trafficking, its prevalence, and provide resources to combat it, including hotlines to help those who may have fallen victim to this crime. The Governor specifically stated that hospitality establishments can often be sites of human trafficking.
The new laws have been largely supported by various members of the legislature. Assembly member Kimberly Jean-Pierre said, “[e]nsuring that bar and restaurant staff are properly trained in assisting victims of human trafficking is extremely important. Human trafficking is a social and community tragedy that endangers public health and fuels violence and crime. This bill will help bring awareness to the issue, help these staff members better understand the signs, and teach them the proper reporting procedures. I am thrilled to see this bill signed into law by Governor Hochul and look forward to continuing the fight against human trafficking.”
State Senator Jamaal Bailey further commented that, “[h]uman trafficking is a growing and pervasive problem that impacts all our communities. This package of legislation works to combat the scourge of human trafficking, promote resources for victims, and advance preventative measures to protect against and break the cycle of exploitation.”
Not only does the state government believe the hospitality industry can assist in the fight against human trafficking, it is also imposing certain legal obligations on hospitality employers.
I. New Posting Requirements
Any establishment with a license to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises must display signage regarding the offense of human trafficking and assistance hotline. The establishment is required to display the required postage where it can be easily read by clientele and employees of the establishment in both English and Spanish.
This requirement takes effect immediately. Employers who fail to comply will be subject to civil penalties up to $100.00 for each day of the violation.
II. New Training Requirements
Lodging facilities will soon have to provide specific human trafficking awareness training to client-facing employees. “Lodging facilities” includes inns, hotels, motels, motor courts and/or any other establishments that provide lodging to transient guests. “Client-facing employees” are defined as “employees who are likely to come into contact with guests in their facility.”
Existing covered employees must receive the training within four months of the law’s July 20, 2023 effective date, or no later than November 20, 2023. After July 20, 2023, any new covered employees must receive the training within 60 days of their start date.
Consistent with other trainings required by the State of New York, covered employers will have to maintain records showing that their covered employees completed the training for the entire duration of each employee’s employment and for one year following separation.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance are working in conjunction with the New York State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking and will be providing a list of available approved training programs online. The training is expected to cover topics such as the nature of human trafficking, the legal definition of human trafficking, how to identify victims of human trafficking, and the process your employees should follow if a victim is identified.
III. Alcohol Training Awareness Program Requirements
Establishments with a license to sell alcoholic beverages will require all New York State Liquor Authority-certified Alcohol Training Awareness Programs to include a human trafficking training component. Employers should ensure that any programs that they utilize and offer to employees contain the newly required information to increase awareness and understanding of the signs of human trafficking.
Moving forward, hospitality employers are urged to consult with their legal counsel to ensure they comply with the rules and regulations required under these new laws.
Olivia P. Hines is an associate in Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP’s Labor & Employment Practice Group. Ms. Hines has experience defending employers against wage & hour claims, discrimination & harassment claims. Ms. Hines also drafts various employment policies and agreements such as company handbooks, termination letters and release agreements. Prior to joining the firm Ms. Hines worked as an Associate at a multi-practice litigation firm in the Employment and Commercial litigation departments. Ms. Hines also worked as a legal intern in three boutique firms in Brooklyn and Manhattan, in the areas of Personal Injury, Securities Litigation and Criminal Law. Ms. Hines can be reached at (212) 370-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org