Putting #MeToo into policy

Members of the state Senate and Assembly heard hours of testimony from former staffers who said they had experienced harassment.
Members of the state Senate and Assembly heard hours of testimony from former staffers who said they had experienced harassment.
New York State Senate
Members of the state Senate and Assembly heard hours of testimony from former staffers who said they had experienced harassment.

Putting #MeToo into policy

State lawmakers have a long list of bills that address sexual harassment.
March 25, 2019

In February, state lawmakers held the first joint legislative hearing on sexual harassment in 27 years. During the marathon hearing, experts and advocates raised a wide range of issues with the state’s current laws and offered a number of proposed fixes.

Even before the hearing, there were no shortage of bills introduced in Albany to address sexual harassment and strengthen laws protecting victims – and lawmakers are drafting additional bills based on what they heard at the hearing. Here are 11 of the major bills that have been introduced, all of which are currently in committee.

1. A869/S2037

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi

Would require employers to provide a waiver to any party entering into a confidentiality agreement that explains the rights he or she would be giving up by signing the agreement.

2. S3817

Sponsored by Biaggi

Covers employers with four or more employees for all discrimination and employers with one or more employees for discriminatory harassment, eliminates the severe or pervasive standard, eliminates parts of the Faragher/Ellerth defense, sets standards for employer liability of employee discriminatory behavior, clarifies discriminatory practices related to domestic workers, addresses circumstances when discriminatory practices of employers extend to nonemployees, extends punitive damages that can be granted by the state Division of Human Rights and adds language to the state Human Rights Law that it be construed liberally.

3. S3377

Sponsored by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes

Eliminates the severe or pervasive standard for sexual harassment only, eliminates part of the Faragher/Ellerth defense for sexual harassment only, explicitly adds language about sexual harassment in statute describing unlawful discriminatory practices, makes all employers in the state subject to the language about sexual harassment and enables to state Division of Human Rights to repeal or amend rules to ensure the bill’s enactment.

4. S3941

Sponsored by state Sen. Liz Krueger

Requires the state Department of Labor to draft a model sexual harassment policy and a model sexual harassment prevention training program for employees, clearly specifies in statute that sexual harassment is an unlawful discriminatory practice, eliminates the severe or pervasive standard in the case of sexual harassment or other sexual discrimination and enables employers with fewer than four employees to be subject to sexual discrimination laws.

5. A849A

Sponsored by Simotas

Requires independent consideration for each confidentiality provision that is part of a settlement.

6. A1042/S2036

Sponsored by Simotas, Biaggi

Extends the amount of time to file a sexual harassment complaint from one year to three years.

7. A1115/S2035

Sponsored by Simotas, Biaggi

Requires employers to inform employees that entering into a nondisclosure agreement cannot prevent them from speaking with police, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the state Division of Human Rights or a local commission on human rights.

8. A3644/S2034

Sponsored by Simotas, Biaggi

Requires annual bystander intervention training for sexual harassment prevention for all state employees.

9. A3643/S2049

Sponsored by Simotas, Biaggi

Requires settlements relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination be disclosed to the state attorney general’s office, which can investigate any individual or institution that has entered into three or more settlements.

10. S2874

Sponsored by Biaggi

Makes sexual harassment a Class A misdemeanor.

11. S3453

Sponsored by Biaggi

Requires the state to revisit and update the model sexual harassment prevention guidance document and sexual harassment prevention policy as needed every four years beginning in 2022.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
20190620