A key part of the BE HEARD Act includes expanding civil rights protections to all employees regardless of business size, and to non-employees like independent contractors, interns, and volunteers. It would also prohibit employers from forcing workers to sign blanket non-disclosure agreements upon accepting a job and provide employers with best practices for preventing sexual harassment. And, crucially, the law would end the so-called “severe or pervasive” standard—which sets an impossibly high bar for victims to meet in court—sending the message that no form of sexual harassment is okay.
Last year, in a bold step forward and at the urging of advocates, New York State passed six new laws to combat rampant sexual harassment in the workplace, from mandating that all employers in the state conduct sexual harassment trainings and maintain sexual harassment policies to outlawing mandatory arbitration clauses to banning non-disclosure agreements and more.
Still, more needs to be done, especially to combat harassment in low-wage and male dominated industries. That’s why, on February 13th, the New York State legislature held a joint public hearing on sexual harassment to listen and learn from survivors and advocates about how the state can continue to lead on ending sexual harassment in the workplace.
A Better Balance attended the hearing in Albany along with many of our partners and submitted testimony to give voice to some of our client’s incredibly difficult experiences and to offer a host of recommendations to help ensure employers, especially those in industries with particularly high rates of harassment, face appropriate consequences for their actions and are deterred from tolerating such behavior in the future.
Among our recommendations, we urged the legislature to:
- Pass the four anti-sexual harassment and multiple anti-discrimination measures proposed in in the FY 2020 Executive Budget
- Extend the statute of limitations for all discrimination and harassment complaints filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights from one to three years and remove other barriers to accessing justice
- Add enforcement and reporting requirements to the new employer training law
- Broaden employer reporting requirements
- Enact policies that are responsive to the needs of specific industries, particularly low-wage industries
- Pass a state-wide paid safe and sick leave law
To read our full testimony, click here. Combatting sexual harassment is one of ABB’s key issue areas in our 2019 New York State Policy Agenda, and we will continue to work with survivors, legislators, and advocates to ensure that New York State’s workplaces are safe and healthy for all workers.