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Anti sexual harassment laws are part of new state budget

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

The new state budget includes anti-sexual harassment measures that will apply to both government and private sector workplaces.

The new rules will end state taxpayer-financed settlements for state officials who are found to be abusers. It will also prohibit mandatory arbitration for cases of alleged sexual harassment. And it will end secret settlements unless it’s at the request of the victim.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Cathy Young, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the measure, says it’s a “victory” for New Yorkers.

“It has several provisions in it that are going to protect everyone across the board,” said Young. “I’m very, very  enthused that we’ve gotten it done.”

The protections will also extend to independent contractors and freelance workers, which  Young says represent 40% of the workforce.

The measure is only limited to sexual harassment. Democrats in the Assembly had wanted to extend the definition to all types of harassment but were not successful. There is no new money included in the budget for additional investigations of alleged sexual harassment by the state ethics commission.

For those reasons, Senator Liz Krueger, who is a Democrat, says the measure is lacking.

“We need to fix these problems,” Krueger said. “I just don’t know that we have accomplished the goals in the context of this set of bills.”

There’s been controversy over how the bill was crafted. It was mostly decided by Governor Cuomo and three legislative leaders, all men. The only female legislative leader, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, was left out of the talks. One of the leaders who were in the discussions, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, has been accused of sexual harassment, a charge that he denies.

But Senator Young says women were included in the decision making, saying she and another female senator, Elaine Phillips, wrote the original bill in the Senate. 

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