Governor Hochul Signs Package of Legislation to Address Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
New York (STL.News) Governor Kathy Hochul today signed a package of legislation to address workplace harassment and discrimination. Legislation (S.812B/A.2035B) establishes a toll free confidential hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment. Legislation (S.3395B/A.2483B) includes the State and all public employers as subject to the provisions of the Human Rights Law. Legislation (S.5870/A.7101) prohibits the release of personnel files as a retaliatory action against employees. The legislation was signed at a Women’s History Month celebration with advocates for gender equity and women’s rights.
“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,” Governor 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.”
Addressing sexual harassment is part of Governor Hochul’s Equity Agenda, which includes the creation of a Council on Gender Equity, measures to protect access to reproductive health services, including abortion care and prenatal and postnatal care, increased support for minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs), investments in child care access, and a plan to bring free child care to every SUNY campus. The Governor is also calling on the legislature to pass the Equal Rights Amendment this session.
Legislation S.812B/A.2035B will require the Division of Human Rights to establish a toll free confidential hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment. Many victims of workplace sexual harassment are unable to exercise their legal rights because they are not aware of what those rights are. The function of the hotline will be to 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.
Legislation S.3395B/A.2483B clarifies that the State is considered an employer of anyone serving in the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches – including the staff of elected officials or judges – and subject to the provisions of the Human Rights Law. This legislation will clarify that the state will not be able to avoid responsibility for harassment of public employees and ensure that New York’s sweeping anti-harassment regulations protect both public and private employees.
Legislation S.5870/A.7101 establishes that the release of personnel records to discredit victims of workplace discrimination counts as a retaliatory action under the Human Rights Law. The Human Rights Law expressly prohibits all forms of retaliation against complainants. This legislation clarifies that the release of a personnel record counts as retaliation except where it is necessary to comply with an investigation. This bill also provides additional recourse to victims of unlawful retaliation under this new provision by allowing them to file a complaint with the Attorney General who may commence a proceeding in state Supreme Court.