Sexual harassment has been unlawful for a long time, but the #MeToo movement has brought attention to its prevalence in today's workplace. To combat the issue, New York lawmakers are examining ways to strengthen their harassment prevention laws and provide more resources for employers and workers.
Currently, sexual harassment laws in New York mirror the federal standard, which puts a high burden on the employee to establish a sexual harassment claim, said Brooke Schneider, an attorney with Withers Bergman in New York City. The harassment has to be severe or pervasive enough to be actionable under the law. One incident sometimes can be enough to meet this standard—particularly if there is unwelcome touching involved—but verbal comments usually need to be more frequent be actionable.
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Senate Bill S7193, which was introduced by Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) in January, would amend the law to make sexual harassment and sex discrimination unlawful regardless of the severity or pervasiveness of the conduct—as long as the perpetrator was motivated in whole or part by the employee's gender.
Among other things, the bill would require the New York Department of Labor to draft a model sexual harassment policy and model prevention training for employees. The goal is for all employers to have easier access to resources to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the bill.
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