New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed bills to expand harassment protection for all public employees, including prohibiting the release of anyone’s employment records in retaliation for speaking up about alleged abuse.
“From day one, it has been one of my top priorities to clean up Albany, change a culture of harassment and abuse, and ensure safe, respectful workplaces,” Hochul said.
“Everyone has the right to a workplace free of unlawful discrimination and harassment, and I will never stop fighting for gender equity. While there’s more work to be done, I am proud of the steps we are taking to promote safety, dignity, and respect for all New Yorkers,” the governor added.
State law had previously excluded personal staff of elected officials and judges from anti-discrimination protection under New York’s Human Rights Law.
One bill launches a statewide, toll-free confidential hotline to report sexual harassment in both the pubic and private sector.
“Many victims of workplace sexual harassment are unable to exercise their legal rights because they are not aware of what those rights are,” Hochul’s office said.
The hotline will connect complainants with experienced pro-bono attorneys who will help make them aware of their legal rights and advise them on the specifics of their individualized cases.
The laws were proposed by Democratic lawmakers after the state attorney general’s office launched an investigation against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The probe found that Cuomo, a Democrat, sexually harassed at least 11 women in violation of state and federal civil rights law.
Cuomo’s office leaked the employment records of former employee Lindsey Boylan after she accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
Cuomo resigned in August last year amid the growing harassment scandal. Hochul at the time said that his resignation was “the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers.”
“In the wake of last year’s events, New Yorkers have made it abundantly clear that they stand with survivors of sexual harassment and will not tolerate any failure to hold abusers accountable in the workplace,” state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat, said.
The new laws were welcomed by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“Today is an important day in our collective efforts to combat sexual harassment, and I am grateful to Governor Hochul and the legislative sponsors for their work on these issues,” James said. “Most importantly, I am grateful to the advocates who shined a light in the dark corners of our society and fought tirelessly to make these critical protections a reality.”
Hochul said during a bill signing ceremony at the Javits Center that the move marks “a new day in New York.”
“I’m proud to sign bills that will address sexual harassment in the workplace and say that once and for all, my administration has cleaned house,” she said.
“We created a human resources department, a real one, so actual real complaints can be heard by real people, who will take action. We actually have an outside law firm available for people to complain to, so there’s no sense that anybody within my administration can cover up or sweep something under the rug. No longer will women have to live in fear in any workplace, particularly in our administration,” Hochul added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times