New York Strengthens Sexual Harassment Laws

On Wednesday, the New York state legislature passed landmark legislation that provide stronger protections for survivors of sexual harassment, making it easier to bring sexual harassment claims forward. Governor Cuomo has promised to sign both bills into law.

The first of the two bills removes the standard that harassment in the workplace must be “severe or pervasive” in order for an individual to take legal action. Those lobbying for the bill explained that eliminating this standard will require judges to hear all types of sexual harassment claims, including those involving inappropriate language and groping, which judges have overwhelmingly dismissed under the established standard.

The bill also bans the use of nondisclosure agreements, extends the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims to three years, requires that sexual harassment training be available in any employee’s primary language, and directs the commissioner of labor to study existing labor law and identify where improvements can be made to combat workplace harassment and discrimination.

The second bill passed on Wednesday prolongs the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape from five years to twenty and ten years, respectively. Members of the Time’s Up movement have been particularly vocal on the passage of this bill as it was this statute of limitations that prevented many women from pressing charges against Hollywood movie executive Harvey Weinstein.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group was another passionate group advocating for the passage of both bills. The Group consists of seven women who have worked in the New York legislature and who experienced workplace sexual harassment themselves. They were instrumental in pushing for a public hearing on sexual harassment in the legislature in February. They were ultimately successful as New York held its first public hearing on sexual harassment in over thirty years.


Media Resources: The New York Times 6/20/19, The Hill 6/20/19, New York Senate 6/19/19, The Huffington Post 6/19/19, The New York Times 2/12/19, Feminist Newswire 10/11/17

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