Hudson Valley Assemblyman Mike Lawler, who represents parts of Rockland, was among the New York lawmakers to introduce new legislation to amend the state’s penal code to add a misdemeanor penalty for public officials that engage in retaliation against those who report any form of sexual harassment.
The move comes as Cuomo faces claims of sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, and fostering a hostile work environment by at least seven women.
Lawler said that by amending the law, “New Yorkers won't have to endure the abuse that Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide who spoke publicly about his harassment of her, is currently facing."
“After numerous news media reports about the ongoing retaliatory behavior being encouraged by Governor Andrew Cuomo, it's time for the Legislature to say enough is enough and pass 'Lindsey's Law,’” he said.
“We must protect victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault from retaliatory actions committed by those who abused them. 'Lindsey's Law' would do just that, protecting whistle-blowers and increasing penalties for those who try to retaliate against them.”
Lawler added: “Simply put, Governor Cuomo's predatory actions cannot go unpunished, nor should his ongoing retaliatory actions against former staffers who have had the courage to stand up and tell their truths."
According to those proposing the bill, if the legislation, also called the “Employees in the Workforce Protections Package,” is passed, it includes proposals to:
- Allow employees to bring a complaint with regard to an allegation of sexual harassment in employment within one year of their employment termination with such employer;
- Establish a truly independent commission aimed at increasing transparency and more effectively combating sexual harassment in state government; expressly requires commission members to have relevant experience in handling these particular kinds of cases in order to restore integrity and credibility to the process. Specifically, the membership would include attorneys with actual experience in the establishment of institutional policies, sexual harassment claims, sex crimes, and reporting requirements;
- Protect employees from retaliatory actions by employer or co-employees by criminalizing the use of confidential employee personnel files for the purposes of harassment, intimidation, or embarrassment; and
- Require statewide officeholders and members of the state legislature to sign a certificate under penalty of perjury attesting to the individual’s completion of their sexual harassment training program. The signed certificates shall be posted on the Senate and Assembly websites within 30 days of completion.
“Sexual harassment anywhere, by anyone, must not be tolerated,” Sen. Pam 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. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, period.”
Sen. Daphne Jordan cited the claims against Cuomo as the top reason for reform.
“Our ‘Employees in the Workforce Protections Package’ will reinforce the essential, non-partisan message that sexual harassment, bullying, intimidation, and toxic workplaces are completely unacceptable,” she said.
“These necessary reforms are intended to prevent the very behaviors that Governor Cuomo is being accused of by seven women, the majority of whom are current or former staffers in his administration as these behaviors and allegations are investigated by the State Attorney General.”
The senators who proposed the legislation said that “by bringing this legislative package to the floor and signing it into law, Albany would be sending a message in recognition of the brave survivors who have come forward and shared their stories of harassment.”
“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,” Sen. Sue Serino said.
“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.”
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