By Gina Martinez
The state Legislature has reached an agreement on a series of policy changes to protect workers against sexual harassment as part of the fiscal year 2019 state budget.
State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) serves as chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on Women’s Issues, a workgroup on sexual harassment put together earlier this year by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). The group is made up of 14 assembly members – 10 of whom are women.
Over the last few months, the work group reviewed policy proposals — including non-disclosure agreements, sexual harassment prevention training initiatives and settlement payouts that would cover both private and public employees.
Rozic said that from the start of session, it was made clear that this year’s budget would not only address pressing fiscal challenges, but effective measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
“I am proud of the efforts led by the Assembly’s majority working with colleagues to ensure that this is the first step toward ending the culture of sexual harassment that has been ingrained in so many industries,” she said.
Lawmakers reached an agreement that the state Division of Human Rights will create and publish a guidance policy to prevent sexual harassment. New policies will be required to be distributed to employees and include examples of prohibited conduct that would be considered unlawful sexual harassment, a procedure outlining the timely and confidential investigation of complaints, and information on all available paths of recourse for those coming forward with complaints of sexual harassment, Rozic said.
The state budget also includes provisions to protect those who fall outside of the definition of “employee.” The provisions make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to allow the sexual harassment of non-employees in its workplace. A non-employee includes independent contractors, subcontractors, vendors or consultants.
Rozic plans to host a series of discussions in an effort to inform New Yorkers about the provisions in the enacted budget. She said the discussions will build on her efforts that began in October when she introduced the “Models Harassment Protection Act,” legislation that would provide models with protections against sexual and other forms of harassment in the industry.
Rozic said the state finally took action because of women who came forward and broke their silence during last year’s growing “Me Too” movement.
“While the state budget includes overdue legislation to prevent sexual harassment in various workplaces, the next step is ensuring that these measures are enforced and that we continue to meet with advocates and discuss the next steps to further strengthen New York’s sexual harassment policies,” she said.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart