Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) announced that the 2018-19 state budget included key measures to combat and prevent sexual harassment and strengthen protections for employees.
“All across the country, brave individuals have been speaking up, and it’s time we listened and took real action,” said Wallace. “No longer will employers get away with feigning ignorance or turning a blind eye to harassment and degradation in the workplace. We now have clear guidelines so that every New Yorker is protected and has a path to justice and relief without fear of retaliation.”
The legislation requires all employers in the state to institute a comprehensive sexual harassment policy. The state Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights will develop a model policy that employers can either adopt or exceed through their own policy. These standards prohibit sexual harassment, require information on state and federal law and relief be made available to employees and ensure the timely and confidential investigation of complaints. The measure also bans mandatory arbitration agreements as well as confidentiality clauses in any settlement unless specifically requested by the victim. The policy would also apply to independent contractors, subcontractors, vendors and any businesses participating in competitive bidding for the state.
Wallace, whose two immediate predecessors left office amid scandals relating to inappropriate conduct, has been outspoken about the need to improve the state’s sexual harassment policies. She recently hosted a roundtable discussion on sexual harassment, where over a dozen women in both the private and public sectors shared their experiences and discussed possible solutions. Additionally, she was appointed to the Assembly’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Workgroup to examine issues and craft policy solutions.