Following national attention on the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began the year with his 2018 State of the State Address with a proposal to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
As part of this proposal, the Governor indicated he will propose legislation to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars to fund settlements of sexual assault and harassment claims made against an individual, and to ensure that individual harassers are held accountable. With respect to private employers, Governor Cuomo is pushing to void arbitration clauses that are routinely used to keep sexual harassment cases out of court.
In that same vein, Governor Cuomo proposed uniformity among sexual harassment policies covering all branches of state and local governments, as well as the implementation of an independent and anonymous whistleblower process to help employees make sexual harassment complaints without fear of retaliation.
Finally, Governor Cuomo proposed a series of actions to promote transparency while simultaneously protecting victims of harassment. Specifically, the Governor indicated he will propose legislation to prevent public entities and other branches of the state and local government from requiring confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements related to sexual assault or harassment complaints (unless preferred by the survivor). In addition, Governor Cuomo proposed mandatory annual sexual harassment-related reporting requirements for all companies doing business with the state of New York.
In light of the national attention the problem of workplace harassment, employers – both public and private alike – should be prepared for these changes, and others, that are undoubtedly forthcoming.