New York Legislature Aims to Toughen Sexual Harassment Laws

Cuomo Under Fire

ALBANY, N.Y. (WETM) – The New York State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will release its sexual harassment investigative report into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite dropping impeachment efforts. At the same time, the New York State Legislature is working to toughen the state’s sexual harassment laws.

“Anytime anyone comes forward with an allegation of sexual harassment or assault, it needs to be investigated and it needs to be thoroughly looked at and the women need to be believed,” Assemblyman Mike Lawler, who pushed the bill forward, said.

One of the bills is known as “Lindsey’s Law.” It was named after Gov. Cuomo’s former aid and the first person to come forward with accusations of sexual harassment.

Lindsey’s Law would criminalize releasing personal records as a form of retaliation. The second bill being pushed through the legislature would make it illegal for companies to prohibit rehiring former employees who settled harassment claims.

New York was the first state to mandate annual harassment training in the workplace, but legal experts say that – along with the two new bills – do not do enough to protect those coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment.

I just don’t see it having a disincentive on employers for going out of their way to somehow stop sexual harassment,” Sexual Harassment Attorney Rick Ostrove said. “I’m telling you, the way to stop it is to make them pay severely if it happens. A lot of employers are willing to say Screw it, let’s fight it. Because worst-case scenario, we lose, and it’s not going to be that much.”

Ostrove said the way to strengthen New York’s harassment laws is to make punitive damages available in all circumstances.

“It’s very unfortunate that in our legal system – the way that we make people whole is monetary – but unfortunately, we can’t give people back what was taken from them,” Ostrove said. “We can’t repair the emotional damages that were done. Our only means of providing restitution to victims of sexual harassment is by awarding damages.

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