ALBANY, NY – A major bill sponsored by Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D-36) was signed into law on August 12 by Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact sweeping workplace protections for employees. These reforms take a comprehensive approach to reducing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
“Today, New York becomes a national leader in the fight against harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” Assemblymember Simotas said. “With the signing of this landmark legislation, New York is tackling the culture of intimidation, discrimination and retaliation in our workforce. Employers across all sectors will now have to answer to their employees and survivors will finally be granted the necessary time to report claims.”
The legislation eliminates the requirement that harassment be proven “severe or pervasive” to be considered unlawful, and removes parts of the Faragher/Ellerth that allows employers to avoid liability for harassment if an employee did not make a formal complaint. It also allows for punitive damages against private employers to ensure discrimination is not tolerated on any level.
On the reporting end, this bill extends the statute of limitations to report sexual harassment to the Division of Human Rights to three years from the discriminatory act, widening the window for reporting and seeking damages.
The bill also extends sexual harassment protections to employees of small businesses of all sizes, whereas protections previously would have only applied to employers who have four or more employees.
Additionally, the bill prohibits non-disclosure agreements that prevent 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.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Sexual Harassment Working Group, the New York chapter of the National Employment Lawyer’s Association, and all the advocates who rallied and worked tirelessly to advance this survivor-centered, trauma-informed legislation to protect workers throughout the state,” Assemblymember Simotas said.