NEW YORK, N.Y. – Women harassed in the New York State Legislature have released recommendations for creating stronger workplace protections in government. Their ‘white paper’ followed a panel discussion on Tuesday, June 19th at Cooper Union. Several members of the group claimed sexual harrassment while working for New York State elected officials.
Over the course of several months, the Working Group drafted recommendations after conversations with experts including the National Women’s Law Center, the National Employment Lawyers Association/New York, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The white paper highlights several flaws that the Legislature failed to address when addressing sexual harassment laws in response to the #MeToo movement.
The groups recommendations include:
• Changing language in the anti-discrimination clause in the NYS Constitution to include sex and gender as protected classes
• Defining the terms “employer” and “employee” in the NYS Human Rights Law so that legislative staff are explicitly included in the protections extended by that law
• Adopting a more reasonable burden of proof for victims of discrimination and harassment, by replacing the current “severe or pervasive” standard with a “less well” standard
• Increasing protections for victims seeking redress for damages, by adding: personal liability for discrimination, a constructive notice standard for employers, measures to prevent victim coercion, a “sunshine-in-litigation” law, and increasing time limits to file complaints.
The Working Group has been advocating for protections that government employees can rely on when abuse and harassment occurs. In addition, the Working Group has urged the New York State Legislature to hold hearings on this issue.
The group also recommends the funding of an independent state Division of Human Rights to oversee all training, investigations and enforcement of harassment and abuse.
“The Sexual Harassment Working Group has been a leading voice on how we can do better in state government to support a safe and professional workplace for all,” said Assemblymember Dan Quart. “We must do all we can to provide protection and encourage survivors to come forward without fearing it will ruin their careers.