NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) — The New York state Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will still release its investigative report into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite dropping impeachment efforts.
The committee is investigating sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, as well as the state’s COVID nursing home scandal.
With one week left in office, PIX11’s Katie Corrado took a closer look at the sexual harassment policies Cuomo himself enacted – and then violated, according to the Attorney General’s report – as well as efforts to toughen the laws once he is out of office.
The Sexual Harassment Working Group is working with several state legislators to pass legislation with this aim. The group is a worker collective of former government employees who were victims of sexual harassment.
One proposed bill would criminalize releasing personal records as a form of retaliation. According to the Attorney General’s report, Gov. Cuomo’s office attempted to do this with Lindsey Boylan, who was the first person to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment.
A second piece of legislation would make it illegal for companies to prohibit rehiring former employees who settled harassment claims.
“Think about it in the context of the New York State Senate, the New York State Assembly, Google, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, McDonald’s, Walmart – you name it,” said Democratic State Senator Andrew Gounardes of Brooklyn, who sponsors several of the bills.
“You settle a harassment claim in New York against one of these companies, they can legally bar you from applying for a job anywhere in the world at their place of business. And that is an enormous restriction to place on someone’s economic mobility and economic freedom, and really serves as a disincentive for people to come forward,” he said.
A third proposed bill involves the Human Rights Law, which Cuomo passed in 2018. It lowered the threshold for proving workplace sexual harassment, saying it does not need to be severe or pervasive to be against the law.
Gounardes, however, points out a loophole in the law that excludes personal staff of elected officials.
“We left out a whole class of vulnerable employees that still, to this day, do not have the same protections as their counterparts in other workplaces,” said Gounardes.
“I suspect – and I think many suspect – we know those employees were carved out because I don’t think the institutions of government were ready to confront the fact that we have a painful and ugly legacy of serial harassment in state government,” he added.
In addition to the Human Rights Law, Cuomo also mandated sexual harassment prevention training for all employees in the state. In addition, he extended the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Division of Human Rights from one year to three years.
Legislators, including Gounardes, are trying to now extend that statute of limitations from three years to six years.
Gounardes is encouraging people to consider their role as allies, and dig deep into the issue of sexual harassment.
“The burden should not be on survivors to have to carry this fight forward,” said Gounardes. “It shouldn’t be on them to explain to us all, yet again, why this is bad, why this is not okay. We should all be shouldering that burden together.”
Gov. Cuomo maintains he never knowingly crossed a line with any of his accusers, and believes his gestures were misinterpreted largely because of cultural and generational differences.