In January, Queens Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Bronx State Senator Alessandra Biaggi will introduce a package of six bills to enhance victims of harassment to seek justice.
They worked on the legislation with The Sexual Harassment Working Group, which consists of seven former legislative staffers who experienced, witnessed or reported sexual harassment.
Simotas said speaking to the group has given her a broader perspective and better understanding of survivors’ needs.
“Countless high-profile cases of misconduct and the resulting #MeToo movement have put a spotlight on the pervasive and persistent problems of sexual harassment,” she said in a statement. “Fighting sexual harassment is a complex battle.”
The first bill would require any party entering a confidentiality agreement to be first given a written waiver explaining the consequences of that agreement, and the rights they would surrender. Simotas believes this will give victims more informed choices in settlement negotiations.
The next bill would require all employers to tell their employees that non-disclosure provisions in a contract cannot prevent them from speaking to law enforcement or human rights commissions.
The third piece of legislation would extend the time to file a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint with the New York State Human Rights Division from one year to three years, mirroring the city’s law.
The fourth mandates that all state employees complete an annual bystander intervention training, while the fifth requires all settlement agreements related to sexual harassment or assault be disclosed to the state attorney general’s office for investigation.
The last bill requires any confidentiality provision in a settlement to be supported by separate compensation, in addition to damages for harm.
Biaggi unseated former State Senator Jeff Klein, who was also accused of sexual misconduct by forcibly kissing a former staffer. In a statement, the incoming state senator said she wants New York to be a leader in dealing with sexual harassment.
“Across this country, governments, companies and communities have taken strong action to combat sexual harassment and abuse,” she said, “and I look forward to making New York a place that makes all people feel safe in their workplaces.”