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Simotas Honors Advocates who Fought to Pass Sweeping Workplace Reforms

Αssociated Press

Representatives from the New York State affiliate of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA/NY). Left to right: Margarete McIntyre Esq., Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, President of NELA/NY Miriam F. Clark Esq., and Lisa Lipman Esq. Photo: Courtesy of Assemblymember Simotas’ office

NEW YORK – Assembly Member Aravella Simotas hosted a celebration to honor the advocates who successfully championed for public hearings and fought to extend the rights of employees against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, according to a news release dated Dec. 12. The advocates included the Sexual Harassment Working Group, the New York State affiliate of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA/NY) and TIME’S UP Now. Advocates were presented commemorative copies of the bill at Kaufman Astoria Studios over hors d’oeuvres and refreshments provided by Assembly Member Simotas’ seven-year-old daughter, Eleni.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Sexual Harassment Working Group, the New York chapter of the National Employment Lawyer’s Association, and TIME’S UP Now who worked to balance the power dynamic of workplaces,” said Assembly Member Simotas.

“We owe it to ourselves, and employees across New York State who refused to accept that harassers and negligent employers got away with vile behavior, to improve the culture of our workplaces,” Simotas said. “I am so grateful and indebted to each of these advocates who were committed to making New York’s workplaces better for all of us.  It is my hope that by the time that my daughter joins the workforce, the inappropriate attitudes and culture that permeate many of our workplaces will finally be eliminated.”

The National Herald Archive

Advocates from the Sexual Harassment Working Group and NELA/NY together. Left to right: Standing, Eliyanna Kaiser, Danielle Bennett, Chloe Rivera, Tori Burhans Kelly, Rita Pasarell, President of NELA/NY, Miriam F. Clark Esq., Lisa Lipman Esq., and seated, Erica Vladimir, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Elizabeth Crothers, and Leah Hebert. Photo: Courtesy of Assemblymember Simotas’ office

The bill, that was signed by the Governor in August:

  • Abolishes the requirement that harassment be proven “severe or pervasive” to be considered unlawful;
  • Removes parts of the Faragher/Ellerth defense that allowed employers to avoid liability for harassment if an employee did not make a formal complaint;
  • Widens the window for reporting and seeking damages for sexual harassment and discrimination claims;
  • Extends sexual harassment protections to employees of businesses of all sizes, whereas protections previously would have only applied to employers who had four or more employees;
  • Prohibits any non-disclosure agreements from preventing employees from initiating or participating in an investigation conducted by a federal, state, or local agency, sharing information necessary to receive unemployment or other public benefits, or speaking with an attorney.

"The Sexual Harassment Working Group is so thankful for this beautiful recognition and for Assemblymember Simotas' tremendous worker advocacy. Workers are now more safe at work because of her leadership and courage in creating a harassment-free New York,” said The Sexual Harassment Working Group. “We are so proud of the incredible 2019 improvements to discrimination laws, brought about by the hard work of our members and partner organizations including National Employment Lawyers Association/NY and TIME’S UP Now."

The National Herald

Advocates from the Sexual Harassment Working Group and NELA/NY together. Left to right: Standing, Eliyanna Kaiser, Danielle Bennett, Chloe Rivera, Tori Burhans Kelly, Rita Pasarell, President of NELA/NY, Miriam F. Clark Esq., Lisa Lipman Esq., and seated, Erica Vladimir, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, Elizabeth Crothers, and Leah Hebert. Photo: Courtesy of Assemblymember Simotas’ office

“NELA/NY salutes Assembly Member Simotas for her dedicated and persistent efforts in protecting employees in New York from unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace. We were honored and privileged to have worked with her on this ground-breaking legislation,” said Miriam Clark, President of NELA/NY.

“TIME’S UP was born out of the need to turn pain into action, and we are so grateful to Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas for her leadership in Albany on behalf of survivors,” said Jennifer Klein, Chief Policy and Strategy Officer for TIME'S UP Now. "We are in this inspiring moment of action because of the conviction of individuals who have come forward to talk about the abuse and the harassment they endured in their workplaces, often at great personal cost. We extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to those silence breakers and truth tellers for their leadership as well."