Are staffers for elected or appointed officials fully covered by provisions of the Human Rights Law? 

Some defendants facing accusations have argued that staffers should be considered employed by the official who hired them, not the governmental entity that pays their salary. But even when a plantiff is employed by a government entity, there is needed clarification when it comes to the Human Rights Laws, state lawmakers say. 

A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Yuh Line Niou and state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (A2483A/S3395) would codify that under New York State Human Rights Law, staff of elected and appointed officials are employees of the government entities for which they work, strengthening the protections for those staffers.

The bill would also apply to employees of a city, county or any municipality. 

“It’s a federal carve-out that essentially says some workers aren’t protected the same way. Pretty much saying that they aren’t employees of the state, they are employees of someone else – even though they’re getting checks from the state,” Elias Farah, a member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group explained to Capital Tonight. “Essentially, what they’re saying is you’re not really our employees so when it comes to protections. Too bad, so sad.”

It was one of several bills that members of the Sexual Harassment Working Group had hoped to see approved before the legislative session ended Thursday night, but the Legislature did not pass the bill.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that employees of elected officials are not covered by provisions of the Human Rights Law. The story has been updated to reflect they are protected, but the law needs to be clarified.