Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., along with his Senate colleagues, passed legislation (S.6577) to combat sexual harassment and ensure that all employees in the private and public sector are treated equally and respectfully. This important legislation includes the removal of the “severe or pervasive" standard from discriminatory and retaliatory harassment cases.
“Victims of sexual harassment have fought to be heard and have been met with silence and inaction for too long,” said Senator Addabbo. “As a result of the Senate hearings on sexual harassment in the workplace, we are finally providing these victims with the rights and justice they deserve. I am proud to stand alongside my colleagues as we move towards a harassment-free New York.”
The Senate Majority held hearings on sexual harassment in the workplace for the first time in 27 years. The hearings, held in Albany and New York City, provided survivors and experts from around the state with the opportunity to give testimony and discuss sexual harassment in the workplace directly with lawmakers.
In a NY1/Baruch College poll, a quarter of New Yorkers reported experiencing sexual harassment. The poll found that 55 percent of women harassed were victims of a person in a position of power. In a Siena Research Institute poll, 74 percent of respondents stated that sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem.
Senate bill S.6577 will:
- Remove the "severe or pervasive" standard from discriminatory and retaliatory harassment cases.
· Extend the statute of limitations to three years for sexual harassment complaints under the Human Rights Law.
· Prohibit non-disclosure agreements to bar someone from speaking out against discrimination.
· Expand protections of domestic workers and independent contractors to include all forms of harassment.
· Authorize the award of punitive damages and attorney fees in employment discrimination actions.
· Push back the Faragher-Ellerth defense by indicating that the fact that an individual did not make a complaint about the harassment to their employer, licensing agency, employment agency or labor organization will not be determinative of whether such employer, licensing agency, employment agency or labor organization is liable. It also prohibits mandatory arbitration of discrimination claims.
· Require employers to provide their employees with a notice of sexual harassment prevention policies in the employees’ primary language.
The Senate and Assembly both passed this legislation which will now be delivered to the Governor for final approval.