Speaker Corey Johnson, Women’s Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal, and Council Members Announce the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act

Legislation will strengthen New York City’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Training and Expand Sexual Harassment Protections to All Employees

City Hall, NY – Taking action to further protect employees against sexual harassment, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Women’s Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal, and Council Members today unveiled the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” a comprehensive package of legislation to strengthen New York City’s anti-sexual harassment policies and combat sexual harassment in the workplace.

The series of 11 pre-considered bills will be introduced at the joint Committee on Women and Committee on Civil & Human Rights hearing on February 28th and will expand anti-sexual harassment protections to include all public and private employers in New York.

“All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, respectful workplace – and this starts with sending a strong message to employers that there is no place for sexual harassment in New York City,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. “With more and more sexual harassment cases being brought to light, it has never been more important for the government to play a role in the movement to end sexual harassment and assault. This City will not be complicit in the abuse or degradation of people in the workplace. I want to thank my Council colleagues for their support in pushing this package of bills forward so that no employee feels unsafe at work.”

“This legislative package is a tremendous first step toward ending sexual harassment in New York City, and I’m proud that we are taking it. The #MeToo movement challenges us to translate its power and courage into thoughtful and impactful policy to guarantee the right of every person to a safe and respectful workplace. The introduction of this legislation is the start of that work–for the more than 330,000 employees of the City of New York and for every working New Yorker. These bills will expand protections, confront flawed processes, and establish new mechanisms for accountability. The bill I’m sponsoring, for example, will require the City to survey all City employees about their workplace environment and use the results to create and implement action plans specific to each agency,” said Women’s Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal. “As Chair of the Committee on Women, I want to thank Speaker Johnson for his extraordinary leadership and partnership. Through legislation, through oversight, and most importantly, through our sustained commitment, this Council will make a difference for workers all across New York City.”

 

Descriptions of each bill are as follows:

  • Mandating City agencies conduct anti-sexual harassment training for all of their employees (Speaker Johnson)
    • The first step in a holistic approach to address and respond to workplace sexual harassment is ensuring an effective training program is in place.
    • Training will help employees understand what sexual harassment is and what procedures are in place to respond to claims of sexual harassment, and show that the issue is taken seriously by the City.
    • Interactive training at least once a year for all City workers will help to foster an environment within City government that is intolerant of sexual harassment.

 

  • Requiring City agencies to conduct anonymous climate surveys and develop and implement action plans to prevent sexual harassment (Council Member Rosenthal)
    • A valuable way for the City to communicate a sense of urgency that sexual harassment is unacceptable is to conduct a climate survey of employees to determine whether employees feel that such harassment exists in the workplace. The United States military has adopted these types of surveys on a widespread scale in recent years, and all colleges and universities in New York are now required to conduct climate surveys of their students to help with efforts to reduce and prevent campus sexual assaults. Furthermore, many private companies use climate surveys to determine employee engagement, retention and satisfaction.
    • Climate surveys of City workers will also provide a voice for many City employees who may currently feel that they do not have an avenue to share their concerns as they relate to workplace sexual harassment.
    • Once the surveys are completed and reported on, agencies will be required to work with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to develop action plans to address survey findings and ensure a workplace environment that does not condone sexual harassment.

 

  • Requiring City agencies to conduct risk assessments to prevent sexual harassment (Council Member Adams)
    • This bill will require City agencies to do an assessment of potential risk factors at their agency that may increase the likelihood of sexual harassment. This analysis will provide agencies with a roadmap for taking proactive measures to reduce sexual harassment within their respective workplaces. These risk factors have been identified by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, and focus on such factors as diversity and workplace environment.
    • By identifying predictors regarding whether harassment may happen, and by reviewing current agency policies and procedures, each agency will be able to develop and implement an action plan that will mitigate the risk of workplace sexual harassment.

 

  • Mandating City agencies report on sexual harassment complaints (Council Members Levine, Williams, Torres and Cabrera)
    • Understanding the scope of sexual harassment complaints within individual City agencies is an important step in understanding how prevalent the issue is for the City’s workforce. Requiring transparency will show City employees that addressing and responding to workplace sexual harassment is critically important.

 

  • Requiring City contractors to disclose policies and procedures in places to prevent sexual harassment (Council Member Van Bramer)
    • City contractors are already required to disclose policies and procedures on a myriad of issues. This bill will ensure that disclosure encompasses anti-sexual harassment measures.

 

  • Enhancing sexual harassment education and facilitating the complaint process through a robust website (Council Member Ampry-Samuel)
    • We live in a digital age and the City must ensure that the resources it makes available to its residents are properly digitized and easily accessible.
    • Anyone who may have been a victim of sexual harassment should be able to go on the Human Rights Commission’s website and easily find resources that not only define what sexual harassment is, but also explain processes available to address any claims and improve their workplace environment.

 

  • Expanding sexual harassment protections to all employees (Council Member Powers)
    • In 2015, New York State amended its human rights law to ensure that the State’s sexual harassment laws covered employers with fewer than four employees.
    • This bill will ensure that every employee in the City of New York is entitled to a working environment free from sexual harassment.

 

  • Mandating that private employers conduct anti-sexual harassment training for their employees (Council Member Cumbo and Public Advocate James)
    • The City of New York recognizes the importance of requiring anti-sexual harassment training as part of a holistic approach to combating workplace sexual harassment.
    • New York City has always led the way when it comes to providing protections to its residents and workers. By requiring training of employees, managers and supervisors, this bill will help to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment across the City.

 

  • Requiring employers to post written policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment (Council Members Cornegy and Cumbo)
    • While anti-sexual harassment training is vitally important, so too is a daily reminder to employees and supervisors/managerial personnel of what their rights and responsibilities are. A simple and understandable poster outlining those rights and responsibilities will ensure that employees know what they can do to address sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

  • Clarifying in the Human Rights Law that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination the Human Rights Commission has the power to eliminate and prevent (Council Member Rivera)
    • This bill will make clear that addressing sexual harassment is a core mission of the Commission on Human Rights.

 

  • Resolution calling upon the United States Congress to pass, and the President to sign S.2203/H.R.4734, known as the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017,” which prohibits a predispute arbitration agreement from being valid or enforceable if it requires arbitration of a sex discrimination dispute (Council Member Miller)
    • S.2203, introduced by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), and H.R.4734, introduced by Representative Cheri Bustos (17th Congressional District).
    • Employers tend to require their workers to sign arbitration agreements, which require that any disputes between employer and employee, including sexual harassment, be settled in private arbitration, outside of the court system.
    • The Economic Policy Institute surveyed nonunion private-sector employers, finding that more than 56 percent of American workers, roughly 60.1 million workers, are subject to mandatory arbitration agreements.
    • Hence, it is estimated that more than half of American workers are not able to take sexual harassment claims to court and instead forced to use a private arbitration process.
    • Mandatory arbitration agreements suppress claims, with many employees citing fear of retaliation and lack of attorney participation.

 

“Today I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation that would address sexual harassment in the workplace. My legislation would extend sexual harassment protection to employees of any company, regardless of its size. We are experiencing a watershed moment, and the Council’s focus on this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “We are overdue for change when it comes to equality and sexual harassment, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make much-needed updates to the law.”

“At a moment when so many are standing up and saying #MeToo, it is critical that we as elected officials seize this moment to implement policies aimed at rooting out sexual violence so that no one else has to join their voices in such a chorus,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy. “This package of legislation lays the groundwork for creating a city that stands firmly against sexual harassment and provides the appropriate mechanisms for handling instances of such harassment swiftly and justly.”

“It is apparent that appropriately addressing sexual harassment in the workplace must be backed by the force of law,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “Anti-sexual harassment standards can no longer be optional and should never be taken lightly. This package of bills will be a strong shield to provide protection to potential victims.”

“Across the country, an epidemic of sexual harassment plagues every corner of every industry from L.A. to D.C.,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “As a city, we have an obligation to enact policies that help protect employees both in and out of government. Today’s commitment by the Council, under Speaker Johnson’s leadership, to reevaluate and improve our sexual harassment policies will guarantee victims the protection and attention they deserve.”

“The recent exposure of systematic workplace sexual harassment and assault across sectors and industries has brought a sea of change to our culture,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “I am introducing this legislation because I believe it is imperative that we, as lawmakers, do everything we can to ensure that adequate training and resources are provided in the workplace. This new law would require organizations seeking to do business with or receive funding from the city to provide details of their practices, policies and procedures as they relate to preventing and addressing sexual harassment. This issue must be taken seriously, and I will continue to fight for legislation that expands protections against sexual harassment and assault for all New Yorkers.”

“Claims of sexual harassment are emerging at levels never presented before because women, especially, have been empowered and supported in speaking up,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. “This legislation further empowers and supports all victims to speak up. I am proud of what we are about to accomplish in ultimately passing this bill.”

“This legislative package sends a message to everyone, including the White House, that New York City will not tolerate sexual harassment in any form. We are calling out abuses of power because accountability and justice is long overdue,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “The punishment must fit the crime, regardless of the type of workplace. However, passing this package will not end our campaign – we must take our message of protecting individuals’ safety and dignity to homes and streets everywhere.”

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