New York, NY – City Council members and women’s advocates, on Wednesday, announced a legislative package of 12 new bills aimed at combating sexual harassment across both the public and private sectors.
“The reason we are here today can be summed up in three words…Hashtag-Me-Too,” Council Member Helen Rosenthal said at a City Hall press conference held ahead of a joint Committees on Women and Civil and Human Rights hearing. “We owe the survivors action…they are still not sure of their rights and harassers are still too often able to operate with impunity. The hearing today is the first step to address that injustice.”
The package includes bills which provide city employees with a safe way to speak out, require more robust training and education on harassment, and strengthen tracking and reporting of instances of harassment. A bill introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson would mandate that all city agencies conduct anti-sexual harassment training twice a year. A bill introduced by Council Member Adrienne E. Adams would require the New York City Commission on Human Rights, in conjunction with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, to prepare and submit to the mayor and speaker an assessment of risk factors associated with sexual harassment within city agencies. Other bills would require resources about sexual harassment to be posted on the NYC Commission on Human Rights’ website; annual reports on workplace harassment in city agencies; a “climate survey” that would assess awareness and knowledge of sexual harassment, and raising the statute of limitations for filing harassment claims from one-year to three. Three of the bills would require private sector employees to post a sexual harassment policy within their workplaces, and to conduct regular trainings on such policy.
Council Member and Chair of the Committee on Civil and Human Rights Mathieu Eugene, said, “This is a human rights issue; this is urgent.”
Public Advocate Tish James, a sponsor of the private-employer bill, said, “We have to send a message to every woman in New York: ‘You are not alone.’”
Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo said, “We are taking away the ‘we didn’t know’ [defense].”
Latino Justice Associate Council Natasha Manning drew attention to the plight of immigrant, low-income, and women of color around the issue of sexual harassment, saying, “The city government is now responding.”
Alyssa Martinez, a member of Girl Be Heard, which uses theatre as a vehicle to empower young women, held the crowd spellbound with a spoken word piece on the steps of City Hall, declaring: “Consent is yes, consent is clear, consent is I’m comfortable, consent is permission…no doesn’t have a double meaning, red is not green, no is not yes, up is not down.”