As Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces down numerous sexual harassment allegations, the New York State Senate passed five bills that would strengthen protections for employees who have been sexually harassed in the workplace.
One bill would make the state and all public employers subject to the Human Rights Law. This means that if legislative or judicial staff report a violation, there will not be retaliation.
“No individual or institution — no matter how powerful — is above the law,” said Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a sponsor of the bill. “It’s our responsibility to listen to those who wish to speak up, and to amplify their voices to ensure that our government ethics are held to the highest standard.”
Another bill, the Let Survivors Speak Act, would block companies from penalizing survivors of sexual harassment who sign a non- disclosure agreement, but then speak out about their experience. This bill would keep them from having to pay liquidated damages for violating their NDA.
“New Yorkers deserve a government that works for everyone — not just those in powerful positions,” bill sponsor, and chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Internal Governance, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi said. “But without meaningful transparency and accountability, New York State will never end the cycle of corruption and abuse that has long plagued Albany.”
Two bills would extend the statute of limitations for employment discrimination, including sexual harassment, from three to six years and raise the statute of limitations to three years for all unlawful discriminatory complaints.
And lastly, another piece of legislation would ban "no rehire" clauses in settlement agreements.
“These bills were borne directly out of our lived experiences, and will help create systems of accountability for industries and institutions that protect power at the expense of dignity,” the Sexual Harassment Working Group said in a statement. “Historically, that includes the NYS Legislature, which is why we applaud Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for showing the institutional courage to change. We hope the NYS Assembly and Speaker Heastie will rise to her example.”
It is unclear when, or if, the Assembly will pass these five sexual harassment bills. One bill is missing a companion bill in the Assembly.