Amid the #MeToo movement, this Queens lawmaker wants tougher sexual harassment laws

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A Flushing-based lawmaker is co-sponsoring a package of bills meant to combat sexual harassment in the workplace statewide.

In the middle of an ongoing national conversation, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky has announced her support for six bills meant to ensure workers a harassment-free place of employment.

“No one should be forced to endure harassment at their workplace,” Stavisky said. “Sexual harassment is inappropriate and must be confronted at every turn.”

With regards to public sector workers, the first bill would make New York state legislators facing sexual harassment claims against them personally liable for settlements, ensuring that tax-paying constituents would not foot the cost. Another bill would hold state public officers to a higher standard, deeming it a violation of the Code of Conduct to initiate an act of sexual harassment. Any offending public officer would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000, according to Stavisky.

Also in the public sector, a third bill would require all state entities to take a “strong management policy” against sexual harassment. Provisions include establishing sexual harassment prevention training protocols and distributing information about sexual harassment and ways to report such instances to all employees.

In the private sector, a fourth bill would make similar changes to workplace policies. If passed, the legislation would codify sexual harassment as an unlawful discriminatory practice and ensure small business employees the ability to bring a claim of sexual harassment or gender discrimination against their employer.

The standard to bring forth a sexual harassment case would also be lowered: one incident of harassment will be severe enough to sue for damages. Training protocols would also be distributed to ensure better practices by both small businesses and large corporations.

The fifth bill would ensure employees who report incidents of sexual harassment to the State Division of Human Rights job security and protections from retaliation. The sixth would amend the labor law to prevent employers from presenting contracts to employees that would waive their procedural rights as a condition of employment.

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently presented a series of proposed sexual harassment reforms in his 2018 State of the State, mirroring some of the state Senate proposals.

The announcements come in the wake of a series of sexual harassment allegations brought against public figures, mostly men, including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and outgoing U.S. Senator Al Franken.

Stavisky called the six pieces of proposed legislation “common-sense bills.”

“We must pass these bills immediately to send a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated in New York state,” the lawmaker added.

Each of the bills are currently in respective committees.