In light of the recent flood of sexual harassment accusations against members of all echelons of the political world, entertainment and media, state Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D/Ossining) has called on
Governor Andrew Cuomo to immediately convene a task force charged with comprehensively reviewing existing state government policies and making recommendations for a uniform standard to handle claims and investigations involving all 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 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 include the 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. The definition of sexual harassment is the same unwelcome behavior from one person to another regardless of where he or she works.
“We have seen only the very beginning of these charges as more people feel braver about coming forward,” said Galef. “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.
“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. The goal of the task force will be to consolidate the separate policies and provide an unambiguous policy for anyone who receives a paycheck from the state,” Galef said.
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.