In the wake of the flood of sexual harassment accusations against powerful men in politics, entertainment and media, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to immediately convene a task force charged with reviewing existing policies and making recommendations for a uniform standard to handle claims and investigations involving state workers and elected officials.
Galef’s proposal for a coordinated task force would include representatives from the Assembly, Senate, and the offices of the Governor, Attorney General and state Comptroller. It would be required to develop a recommendation for a consistent sexual harassment policy spanning across all state agencies and departments within three months of its formation.
Both houses of the Legislature and the Executive Branch, which includes all state agencies, have workplace rules to address sexual harassment complaints. However, different systems are in place for each institution and no clear standards exist for all government workers and elected officials, Galef said.
“We have seen only the very beginning of these charges as more people feel braver about coming forward,” said Galef, D-Ossining. “Performing thorough investigations will be hard enough. Compounding the challenge will be how we apply different processes to investigate these allegations.”
A comparison of the Assembly and Senate sexual harassment policies show marked differences in how both manage employee grievances, including investigation procedures and time frames for the entire process once a complaint is formally filed, the assemblywoman notes.
“If you are a member of the Assembly, the Senate or are employed by the DMV, you still work for New York state, and as such you should have the same standard apply and to know there is a straightforward process,” she said.
“The goal of the task force will be to consolidate the … policies and provide an unambiguous policy for anyone who receives a paycheck from the state.”
Workplace harassment is illegal in New York and is a violation of the state Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbids discrimination and harassment based on a person’s sex. Every employee in New York is entitled to a working environment free from sexual harassment.
In 2015, the governor signed into law Galef’s legislation that allowed all workers to file a complaint of sexual harassment with the state, regardless of the size of their employer.