As all who watch or read the news are aware, a spate of high profile sexual harassment claims involving Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and many others over the past year has shined a light on issues related to gender and harassment in the workplace. This attention has led to new policies intended to prevent workplace harassment:
- The New York State Legislature imposed a number of new requirements on employers, including school districts and BOCES, as part of state budget legislation for 2018-19. Effective Oct. 9, protections were added under the Labor Law as well as the Executive Law’s human rights provisions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “We put into place the strongest and most comprehensive anti-sexual harassment protections in the nation, ending once and for all the secrecy and coercive practices that have enabled this unacceptable behavior for far too long.”
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act on May 9. Like the new state laws, the city initiative makes provisions related to gender-based discrimination apply to all employers, regardless of the number of employees. It also changed the statute of limitations from one year to three-years for filing claims of gender-based harassment with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
- At the end of March 2018, Congress added $16 million to the budget of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the funding was signed by President Donald Trump in March as part of a $1.3 trillion spending bill. It was the first budget increase for the EEOC in eight years, after years of staffing cuts and hiring freezes. “Going forward, I will ensure that we use these additional funds judiciously to enhance the agency’s work – especially as to harassment prevention,” said Victoria Lipnic, the acting chair of the EEOC.