Simotas and Advocates Demand Better Protections vs. Harassment & Discrimination

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas. (Photo: NYS Assembly)

ALBANY, NY – New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and advocates from across the state gathered at the capitol on May 22 to call upon the legislature to expand protections against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Simotas advocated for bill A7083-A, her comprehensive piece of legislation that expands protections for employees who want to report wrongdoing by their employers from a number of angles. The bill eliminates the 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 for 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. Overall, the measure would help shift the balance of power in harassment and discrimination proceedings away from bad employers and level the playing field for employees who are reportedly trampled by big corporations or powerful supervisors under current policies.

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

“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. 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,” Simotas said.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group said, “Assemblymember Simotas and Senator Biaggi are leading the legislature with a comprehensive set of protections that afford workers the rights and dignity they deserve. Our state must act this session to expand baseline statutory protections for workers, repair NDA laws to protect victims, and establish trauma-informed statutes of limitations. The SHWG is proud to fight for these changes alongside our progressive 2019 legislature.”

NELA/NY strongly supports S3817A/A7083A, a bill that expands the protections of the New York State Human Rights Law to protect all employees in New York State from discriminatory harassment. We applaud Assembly Member Aravella Simotas and Senator Alessandra Biaggi for their sponsorship of this critically important bill,” said Miriam Clark, President of NELA/NY.

“While cultural change occurs at a painfully slow rate, our laws can – and must – change now,” said Assemblymember Dan Quart, adding “every single person has the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment and discrimination. It’s time to make that right a reality by rewriting the rules, and bringing safety and fairness to every workplace.”

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, “As a lawyer who has represented plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, I know that New York State’s human rights law cries out for strengthening across the board. This is such a bill. New York will be a better place for workers and employers when the rules of the road and remedies for discrimination and sexual harassment are real, clear, and enforceable. I am grateful to Assemblymember Simotas for her leadership in standing up for women and workers across the state.”

Assistant Speaker Félix W. Ortiz said “The workplace should be a safe and supportive environment for everyone. No one should fear harassment, discrimination, or retaliation of any kind when they are working to provide for themselves and their family. The victims of harassment and discrimination should be protected and supported, not the perpetrators or the business that employees them.”

Assemblyman David I. Weprin declared, “No one should be subject to discrimination or sexual harassment, especially in the work place. The proposed legislation will bring New York up to speed with the rest of the country by removing legal barriers that prevent victims from coming forward and finding perpetrators liable…I applaud Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and my colleagues in the Assembly Majority for protecting New Yorkers against hostile work environments and ensuring that justice is served.”