March 15, 2018

Assembly 2018-19 Spending Plan Includes Legislation to Confront Sexual Harassment

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly SFY 2018-19 Budget includes a comprehensive package of laws to address the scourge of sexual harassment that injures victims personally, financially and professionally.

"The Assembly Majority recognizes that putting families first means making sure that everyone, especially women, never feel that they have to tolerate sexual harassment to earn a paycheck," said Speaker Heastie. "These new policies will empower individuals to hold harassers accountable and help put an end to the culture of harassment that plagued our workplaces for far too long."

The proposal would expand the powers of the Attorney General to provide the authority to prosecute criminal and defend civil cases for all protected classes. It preserves the right of a plaintiff to request confidentiality. It allows the state or local government that has paid a victim to recover payment from an officer or employee as a result of his or her discriminatory act. It would also:

Additionally, the Division of Human Rights would develop a model policy that would be posted online and made available to the public. The policy would prohibit discrimination, unlawful discriminatory practices including sexual harassment, and retaliation. It would include a complaint and investigation process, an appeals process and training requirements. All employers, employment agencies and licensing agencies would be required to have a policy in place that meets the minimum standard established by the model policy. The Division of Human Rights would also be required to establish a 24-hour complaint hotline and develop informational materials.

Organizations participating in any state or local competitive bidding process or applying for any state or local tax credit would be required to have a policy prohibiting discrimination including sexual harassment in order to bid or receive the tax credit.

Assemblymember Helene Weinstein said, "Combating sexual harassment and discrimination in our society requires dynamic, multi-pronged solutions that can attack the root causes of this behavior. It must also provide access to legal remedies for those that have been aggrieved. This legislation will go a long way to raise awareness and foster productive conversations on reducing the prevalence of harassment and discrimination in New York."

Assemblymember Jeff Dinowitz said, "Sexual harassment affects New Yorkers of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Whether at work, in school or other places in their day to day lives, this is a pervasive issue that continues to affect the quality of life for too many people. In order to change this, we must pursue meaningful and effective changes in the way we identify and respond to incidents of harassment, discrimination and retaliation. This legislation moves us closer to that goal."

Assemblymember Michelle Titus said, "As Chair of the Labor committee I know all too well that sexual discrimination and harassment are leading obstacles to successful futures for women in our state and in the workforce. It is past time that this is confronted as not just a moral issue but also an economic issue. I am confident that the legislation included in this package will allow countless women to pursue opportunities for education and career advancement without the weight of harassment on their shoulders."

Assemblymember Aileen Gunther said, "It is past time that we take aggressive and comprehensive steps forward to root out and eliminate conditions that allow sexual harassment to continue. This will take consistent efforts, meaningful public policy reforms and serious conversations about how to end stigma and the fear of retaliation around this issue. The measures included in this package represent our commitment to changing the narrative here in New York."

Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus said, "For far too long, a culture of sexual harassment has been growing in our schools and workplaces because victims have been bullied or shamed into silence. But these courageous survivors are beginning to tell their stories and we must use it as a catalyst to act. The Assembly Majority's proposals ensure that this culture of harassment, which disproportionately affects woman, will no longer be tolerated."

Assemblymember Charles Lavine said, "Sexual harassment is an intolerable predatory practice that we can no longer afford to allow perpetrators or society to sweep under the rug. We must give victims a voice and the legal mechanisms and protections they need to stomp out harassment swiftly and certainly."

Assemblymember Matthew Titone said, "The Assembly's anti-sexual harassment proposals will take power out of the hands of harassers by holding them accountable while empowering survivors with the protections they need to speak out. Sexual harassment has no place in our schools or workplaces and it is long past time we let perpetrators know that their time is up."

Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski said, "With the fear of retaliation being a leading cause for underreporting sexual harassment, our legislation allows plaintiffs to request confidentiality in order to protect victims from being victimized twice: once by the crime and the other, inadvertently, by the justice system. Our legislation ensures that victims do not have to compromise their personal privacy or that of their family's in order to seek justice against the perpetrators of sexual harassment crimes."

Assemblymember Addie Jenne said, "The legislation we are advancing will make illegal the unscrupulous language that is included in various employment contracts to both undermine an individual's basic legal rights and to discourage victims from disclosing the sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation they have experienced. Our legislation would help ensure that workers do not have to accept acts of sexual harassment as a condition of employment."

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, chair of the Ethics Committee said, "I am pleased that our legislation is an absolute sea change in the rights and protections given to government employees who experience sexual harassment on the job. The legislation will mandate that all government employers create a clear policy that informs employees how to complain about discriminatory working conditions, ensures that these complaints will be investigated fairly and that corrective measures will be taken. We have no way of counting, but we can assume that there are far too many government 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. We owe this to public employees who make up the backbone of our great state."

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, chair of the Task Force on Women's Issues said, "Workers across New York have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. These measures would help better protect public and private sector women and men against those who choose to violate the law and continue to create hostile work environments."

Assemblymember Victor Pichardo said, "No one should have to face sexual harassment in the workplace or anywhere else. Our legislation will put into New York State law more concrete ways to navigate the issue from comprehensive staff training to making reporting harassment to giving the Attorney General the authority to prosecute and defend cases for protected classes."

Assemblymember Pamela Hunter said, "Any failure to address sexual harassment in the workplace is a deep disservice to women and society as a whole. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the Assembly Majority to put forward legislation that will help us address this horrible problem."

Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa said, "Victims of sexual harassment are impacted, not just personally, but financially and professionally as well. Our legislation deals with the pervasive issue in a comprehensive manner, including establishing a 24-hour complaint hotline to expanding the powers of the Attorney General to prosecute and defend cases for protected classes."

Assemblymember Monica Wallace said, "No employee should have to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. This legislation will ensure that employers take complaints of sexual harassment seriously and are no longer able to sweep allegations of harassment under the rug."