Hochul Enacts New Anti-Harassment Policies for State Workforce
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday that she’s enacting several anti-harassment and anti-discrimination measures in state government, with a particular focus on the governor’s office.
Hochul took office just over two months ago, after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in a sexual harassment scandal. A report by the state attorney general found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, many of them junior employees in his office. He was accused of overseeing an executive chamber rife with bullying and intimidation.
The report also found that Cuomo and some of his former top aides tried to retaliate against one of his accusers when she came forward to complain.
Hochul, who promised that she would end what was described as a toxic workplace, sent a video message to all state employees outlining the changes she’s making.
“First, and it should go without saying, we will treat one another with respect,” Hochul said in the video. “The workplace is no place for bullying or intimidation, sexual harassment, disparagement or mistreatment. Period.”
Hochul also outlined steps for employees who want to file a complaint about harassment or discrimination that they might have experienced. She said there will be “zero tolerance” for any attempts at retaliation.
She said she’s instituting live anti-harassment training to replace an online program of instruction that was done individually. Cuomo was accused of skipping that requirement and directing his secretary to complete the online program instead, something the former governor denies.
Hochul said she’s retained an outside law firm, Calcagni & Kanefsky, that will investigate any claims of unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the executive chamber.
The governor’s office will also be getting a revamped human resources department.
“We will take every complaint of harassment and discrimination seriously,” Hochul said. “We will do our best to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the investigation. And everyone will have the option to file an anonymous complaint.”
Hochul said since she became governor on Aug. 24, almost 200 executive chamber employees have received ethics training that included the requirements of the state’s Public Officers Law, rules on financial disclosure, and how to comply with the standards set by the state ethics commission.
Cuomo has denied that he did anything wrong and has apologized if he inadvertently treated anyone unfairly. The former governor, through his attorney, continues to dispute the conclusions of the attorney general’s report.
The remarks quickly came under fire from advocates for stronger sexual harassment laws, and an attorney representing one of the women who’ve accused him of misconduct.
In a pre-recorded response to the report, Cuomo said his attorney had compiled a response to each claim made against him, and that he didn’t break the law, despite the report’s findings.