Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the approved SFY 2018-19 Budget includes measures to address the scourge of sexual harassment that has for too long burdened victims personally, financially and professionally.
"The ongoing culture of sexual harassment in the workplace has been a great disservice to hardworking families, especially women," said Speaker Heastie. "That is why the Assembly Majority made it a priority to include measures in this budget that take much-needed first steps towards empowering victims of harassment and holding bad actors accountable."
The legislation bans confidentiality clauses in any settlement involving a claim of sexual harassment, except at the election of the victim. It would also allow any state entity or local government that has paid out an award to a victim for an adjudicated sexual harassment claim to recover payment from the responsible officer or employee. The proposal would also prohibit employers from using mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual harassment claims.
Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Labor and the Division of Human Rights to develop a model sexual harassment prevention policy and a model sexual harassment prevention training program to help combat sexual harassment in the workplace. All employers in the state would be required to adopt the model policy and model training program, or otherwise establish their own policy and program that equals or exceeds the minimum standards developed by the Department of Labor and the Division of Human Rights. The model sexual harassment prevention policy must:
Entities participating in any state or local competitive bidding process will be required to certify that they have a policy addressing sexual harassment prevention in the workplace and provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to its employees in order to submit a bid. In addition, the legislation also protects contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, and other persons providing services pursuant to a contract in the workplace from sexual harassment under the Human Rights Law.
Earlier this year, Speaker Heastie convened a new work group to examine various sexual harassment issues and policy responses during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Assemblymember Helene Weinstein said, "This represents a significant step forward in acknowledging the scourge of sexual harassment and takes concrete steps to protect the victims of this type of unlawful conduct in the workplace."
Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said, "In the interest of human decency, gender equality and justice the Assembly approved legislation, agreed to with the Senate and Governor Cuomo, that will prohibit workplace sexual harassment in all its forms, including body shaming, bullying and retaliation. This legislation will ensure that harassment victims are fully aware of their rights and avenues of recourse."
Assemblymember Michele Titus, chair of the Labor Committee said, "No one should have to tolerate harassment, discrimination or retaliation simply to earn a paycheck. Sexual harassment has hurt the lives and livelihoods of countless New Yorkers in every industry and profession and it is past time that we establish policies and procedures that protect workers from this intolerable practice."
Assemblymember Aileen Gunther said, "For too long, unchecked sexual harassment has tragically empowered harassers and silenced their victims. This proposal would encourage those affected to step out from the shadows and prevent other hardworking New Yorkers from experiencing the countless injuries that this predatory behavior brings."
Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus said, "Time is indeed up for those who would use their power, wealth and influence to subject others to mistreatment and sexual harassment. The changes we are making to New York's laws and employment policies will continue the mission of breaking the culture of intimidation and empowering all individuals to reclaim the respect they deserve."
Assemblymember Charles Lavine said, "With all that has come to light about the challenges individuals face in navigating unwanted and inappropriate contact in the workplace and other environments, it is clear that more needed to be done. These changes will make it clear that sexual harassment and discrimination is a toxic culture that will not be tolerated or enabled in any way."
Assemblymember Matthew Titone said, "Sexual harassment and discrimination have always been about power and bias. These behaviors thrive in secrecy and have caused serious emotional and financial consequences for those affected. The only way to curb these harmful practices is to ensure that those who are experiencing harassment or retaliation know their rights and feel empowered to use them."
Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski said, "We need to put an end to victims of sexual harassment being victimized twice, first by the crime and then again by retaliation. Our bill will help ensure that victims do not have to compromise their personal privacy, or that of their families', in order to seek justice against the perpetrators of sexual harassment crimes."
Assemblymember Addie Jenne said, "It's time to end the practices that undermine individuals' basic legal rights, and discourage victims from disclosing the sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation they have experienced. Our plan will help ensure that workers do not have to accept acts of sexual harassment as a condition of employment in New York State."
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, chair of the Ethics Committee said, "We have no way of counting, but we can assume that there are far too many employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment, and have been forced to continue working in corrosive environments without an opportunity to file complaints and seek remediation. I am pleased that the budget will include these important provisions to protect workers who experience sexual harassment on the job. We owe this to our workforce that makes up the backbone of our great state."
Assemblymember Nily Rozic said, "Sexual harassment in the workplace is an occurrence that no one should have to experience. This legislation is a first step toward ending the culture of sexual harassment that has been engrained in so many industries. As chair of the Women's Task Force, we will continue to meet with advocates and discuss the next steps to further strengthen New York's sexual harassment policies."
Assemblymember Victor Pichardo said, "In this budget we advance a much needed new workplace standard: zero tolerance of sexual harassment. The provisions we enact today put our state on the path toward the goal of establishing a workplace environment that is free of the harmful and debilitating impact sexual harassment has on individuals, their families and employee productivity. Our legislation makes it clear that sexual harassment, which disproportionately affects women, is not a condition that one must accept in exchange for employment."
Assemblymember Pamela Hunter said, "The occurrence of sexual harassment is one we see disproportionately affecting women. By working with my colleagues in the Assembly Majority on this issue we are sending a message that sexual harassment is not a societal norm. Employees have the right to feel safe in the workplace."
Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa said, "Most often we see the after effects of sexual harassment. By creating legislation that assists in its prevention, we ensure that employees are safer in the work place. For the cases of sexual harassment that we cannot prevent, our legislation would allow for a clear means of reporting its occurrence."
Assemblymember Monica Wallace said, "No employee should have to endure harassment or discrimination in the workplace. This legislation ensures that complaints of harassment are taken seriously and provides for a model policy that helps all employers ensure a safe work environment for their employees. This is a great start. I look forward to ongoing conversations with stakeholders to assess additional measures that may be needed to eliminate harassment in the workplace."