NY’s Governor Cuomo Proposes Legislation to Stop Workplace Sexual Harassment

Workplace Sexual Harassment Legislation

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced new legislation aimed at combating workplace sexual harassment. The legislation’s goal is to stop employers from forcing employees to sign contracts including arbitration clauses that limit their ability to litigate sexual harassment claims in the forum of their choice. The legislation works to empower sexual harassment survivors to obtain justice on their own terms.

Forced arbitration clauses relating to employment usually mandate that employees may not adjudicate their sexual harassment claim through a law enforcement investigation or trial with a jury.

The Governor hopes that the State of New York will lead the way towards zero tolerance for workplace sexual harassment and assault, explaining that forced arbitration clauses muffle the choices as well as the voices of women who suffered harassment.

The proposed legislation prohibits organizations from forcing employees to sign the arbitration clauses, thereby empowering victims to pursue justice and stop fostering the workplace culture that too often protects harassers.

Statistics show that 25 percent of all women are sexually harassed in the workplace and often change jobs to end the harassment. This allows the harasser to remain at their job while their victim feels forced to leave – a no win situation between a survivor’s job security and physical safety.

The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York supports the legislation adding that when proceedings and outcomes are secret, workplace sexual harassment can continue as harassers and their actions are not exposed.

Governor Cuomo’s legislation also:

  • Prevents taxpayer money from being used when settling claims for sexual assault or harassment
  • Creates an anonymous whistleblower program spanning state and local government to help file complaints
  • Proposes a uniform code of policies against sexual harassment for state and local government
  • Promotes transparency while protecting the privacy of victims
  • Bans confidentiality agreements for sexual assault or harassment unless the victim expresses preference
  • Creates mandatory yearly reporting for organizations doing business with New York State detailing the number violations for sexual harassment and confidential agreements executed
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