The New York State Senate Republican Women’s Caucus is introducing a package of bills aimed at protecting employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
“The allegations against the Cuomo Administration are a nightmarish combination of sexual abuse, assault, intimidation, bullying, retribution, and toxic work relationships in which power goes completely unchecked,” the State Senate Republican Women’s caucus writes. “No elected officials, least of all the most powerful in the state, should operate in this manner.”
The Senate Republican Women’s caucus is made up of Senator Pamela Helming, Senator Daphne Jordan, Senator Patty Ritchie, Senator Sue Serino, and Senator Alexis Weik.
The “Employees in the Workforce Protections Package” includes four bill proposals that would allow employees to bring forward a sexual harassment allegation within one year after they have left the job and would protect employees from retaliatory actions by employers.
This would include criminalizing the act of an employer releasing confidential employee personnel files for the purpose of “harassment, intimidation or embarrassment.”
Recently, news broke that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s team sought to damage the credibility of Lindsey Boylan, one of Cuomo’s sexual harassment accusers and a former state employee, by releasing some of her personnel records to media outlets.
Another bill in this proposal would also establish a “truly independent commission aimed at increasing transparency and more effectively combating sexual harassment in state government.”
The current commission set up to do this, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), has received widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle for failing to act quickly on numerous sexual harassment allegations over the years and is viewed as an appendage of the governor’s office.
This new commission in the proposal would work independent of JCOPE, but would not replace it.
And the last bill in this proposal would require statewide office holders and members of the state legislature to sign a certificate attesting that they have completed the sexual harassment training program. The certificate would be posted to the Senate and Assembly’s website.
“Sexual harassment anywhere, by anyone, must not be tolerated,” Senator Helming said. “I believe we, as state legislators and employees, have a responsibility to protect New York state government workers from harassment and intimidation. We also must ensure the integrity of the state’s sexual harassment training program.”
“The disturbing allegations made against the Governor — the highest ranking official in state government — make it clear that we must do more to put an immediate and final end to the culture of corruption and secrecy that only emboldens bad actors. We have a duty to empower employees by ensuring they have access to a process they can actually trust to report misconduct and hold perpetrators accountable,” Senator Serino said. “A truly independent commission to investigate claims of sexual harassment is needed now, more than ever, and I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to help make state government safer for everyone by setting politics aside to advance these critical changes.”