Queens lawmakers push legislation protecting workers from hostile work environment

Courtesy of Simotas' office

With less than a month remaining in the legislative session in Albany, the push is on to pass a handful of bills that address sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas is advocating for bill A7083-A, her comprehensive legislation that expands protections for employees who want to report wrongdoing by their employers from a number of angles.

The bill eliminates Faragher/Ellerth defense and removes the requirement that workplace abuse be proved “severe or pervasive” to be significant under the law. It also adds protections to domestic service workers, makes employers liable for harassment and discrimination committed by independent contractors and allows employees to claim punitive damages if they experience workplace harassment.

“Employees who take steps to come forward and report harassers should not face the possibility of further harassment,” Simotas said. “Employers need to be proactive and look to prevent harassment from happening, and we need to hold them to that standard.”

Overall, the Astoria lawmaker’s measure would help shift the balance of power in harassment and discrimination proceedings away from bad employers and level the playing field for employers who are often trampled by big corporations or powerful supervisors under current policies.

“This legislation is a big step forward as it serves to eliminate distinctions between harassments by including stronger protections for all groups that could be subjected to discrimination in the workplace, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment,” Simotas explained. “It is a signal that harassment or discriminatory behavior is not acceptable and we are prepared to make certain it is not happening on our watch in New York state.”

The Gender Equality Law Center strongly supports and urges the swift passage of the bill to amend the New York State Human Rights Law.

“By lowering the currently high standard of proof for victims of harassment, this legislation takes a momentous step forward toward making workplaces safer for women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color who face daily harassment and discrimination by their employers,” GELC Director of Programs and Policy Lauren Betters said. “We support this legislation that breaks down barriers and will provide greater access to justice for all New Yorkers.”

Assemblyman David Weprin added his endorsement of A7082-A.

“No one should be subject to discrimination or sexual harassment, especially in the workplace,” Weprin said. “The proposed legislation will bring New York up to speed with the rest of the country by removing barriers that prevent victims from coming forward and finding perpetrators liable.”

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