August 23, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Ensure Diverse, Inclusive, and Safe Workplaces

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Ensure...

Releases Draft Model Sexual Harassment Policy, Training and Related Guidance for New York Employers for Comment and Feedback by September 12, 2018

 

Nation-Leading Sexual Harassment Package a Signature Initiative from 2018 Women's Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity

 

Directs the Governor's Office of Employee Relations to Take Over All Investigations of Complaints of Employment Discrimination and Harassment in State Agencies - See Executive Order Here

 

Tasks the Chief Diversity Officer and the Commissioner of Civil Service with Responsibility for Statewide Workforce Diversity and Inclusion 

WYSIWYG

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced bold actions to address workplace discrimination and harassment, and further equal opportunity in both the private sector and the state workforce. These actions include releasing draft materials and guidance on New York State's updated sexual harassment laws and signing an executive order to direct the Governor's Office of Employee Relations to take over all investigations of complaints of discrimination and harassment in state agencies. The Governor has also tasked the Chief Diversity Office and Commissioner of Civil Service with the responsibility for new statewide workforce diversity and inclusion efforts.

 

"New York continues to send the message loud and clear that we will not stand for discrimination or sexual harassment of any kind," Governor Cuomo said. "With these actions, we are building upon the nation's strongest anti-sexual harassment laws and ensuring that this intolerable workplace conduct is addressed swiftly and aggressively across the state."

 

"We are continuing to step up to prevent workplace discrimination and fight for the women of New York," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Today's actions further our commitment to ensuring that workplaces across the state are free from harassment. Governor Cuomo and I have worked tirelessly to combat sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, and we will continue to advance solutions to protect all New Yorkers."

 

Secretary to the Governor and Chair, New York State Council on Women and Girls, Melissa DeRosa said, "This year, Governor Cuomo passed the strongest anti-sexual harassment policy in the nation to crack down on the pervasive plague of harassment in the workplace. With these bold actions, New York is taking direct aim at the culture of secrecy and abuses of power that has allowed sexual harassment to thrive. In the fight for women's rights and equality, New York is once again leading the way." 

 

These actions build on the Governor's record of increasing protections and ensuring equal opportunity in the workplace. In April, the Governor advanced legislation designed to put New York on track to close the gender wage gap by prohibiting all public and private employers who do business in New York State from asking prospective employees about their salary history and compensation. That legislation built on two executive orders signed by the Governor last year which prohibited state entities from evaluating candidates based on wage history and required state contractors to disclose data on the gender, race and ethnicity of employees - leveraging taxpayer dollars to drive transparency and advance pay equity statewide. 

 

In 2017, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Labor to study the causes, scope and economic impact of the gender pay gap in New York State and issue policy recommendations to help close it. The report, available here, outlines the state of the gender pay gap in New York, including its scope across the economic spectrum and throughout each region of the state. 

 

Last year, Governor Cuomo announced bold actions to increase the number of minorities in the State government workforce, including advancing legislation to accelerate the hiring of highly-qualified diverse candidates and expanding access to Civil Service exam preparation and tests. The actions were recommended by the Governor's Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

  

Releases Draft Materials and Guidance on New York State's Updated Sexual Harassment Laws

 

On April 12, Governor Cuomo signed into law the 2019 New York State Budget, which includes the nation's strongest and most comprehensive sexual harassment package. This package was a signature proposal from his 2018 Women's Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.

 

The new law establishes a "minimum standard" model sexual harassment policy for all NYS employers (public and private) to adopt and use as-is or use as a basis to establish their own policy. It also requires all state contractors to submit an affirmation that they have a sexual harassment policy and that they have trained all of their employees on the policy.

 

The following items are being released today:

  • New website with resources for employers and employees
  • Minimum standards for employer sexual harassment prevention policies and trainings
  • Model sexual harassment prevention policy - this policy is considered the "minimum standard" requirement, and businesses may choose to adopt it as-is, or use as a basis to establish their own policy. All policies must meet the minimum standards laid out in the model policy.
  • Model Sexual harassment complaint form
  • Model training (script book and PowerPoint presentation)
  • FAQs

 

The materials released today are draft documents and the state is seeking comment from the public, including employers and employees, on the proposed materials. Comments can be submitted via the new website on or before September 12, 2018. Comments will be reviewed and necessary revisions will be considered.

 

As of October 9, 2018 all employers (public and private) must adopt a policy, and provide a written copy of the policy and annual training to all employees.

 

Starting January 1, 2019, all state contractors will be required to submit an affirmation that they have a sexual harassment policy that meets minimum standards and that they have trained all of their employees.

 

Directs the Governor's Office of Employee Relations to Take Over All Investigations of Complaints of Employment Discrimination and Harassment in State Agencies

 

To further promote the effective, complete and timely investigation of complaints of employment discrimination harassment and to ensure that such investigations are not subject to any potential conflicts of interest, the Governor today signed an Executive Order directing the Governor's Office of Employee Relations (GOER) to be the primary entity responsible for conducting all investigations into such complaints filed by employees, contractors, interns or other persons engaged in employment for state agencies. Any person engaged in employment for state agencies will continue to have the right to additionally file complaints with the Inspector General's office who may conduct investigations into conduct that may amount to fraud, abuse, criminal activity, conflicts of interest, abuses of office, or waste.

 

The change will be effective December 1, 2018, and will involve staffing adjustment to ensure that GOER has the full staff it needs to accomplish its investigatory goals. The change will also include updated training on the process for all investigative staff, as well as all agency staff that are involved in address claims of discrimination & harassment. 

 

Tasks the Chief Diversity Officer and the Commissioner of Civil Service with Responsibility for Statewide Workforce Diversity and Inclusion 

 

Today's Executive Order directs the establishment of the Office of Diversity Management within the Department of Civil Service. The Office of Diversity Management shall be responsible for assisting the Commissioner of Civil Service and the State's Chief Diversity Officer in the effective development and implementation of statewide diversity and inclusion plans, policies and programs. Building on Governor Cuomo's legacy of expanding opportunities for New Yorkers and the recommendations of the Governor's Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, the Executive Order tasks the Chief Diversity Officer and the Commissioner of Civil Service with the creation of statewide Diversity and Inclusion guidelines by December 31, 2018, and with overseeing effective implementation of agency-specific plans. The Executive Order also creates an Executive Committee for Diversity and Inclusion to advise the Governor, the Chief Diversity Officer and the Commissioner of Civil Service in the formulation and coordination of plans, policies and programs relating to diversity and inclusion in all State departments and agencies, and in ensuring the effective implementation of such initiatives.

 

Additional Efforts to Create Harassment-Free Workplaces

 

Governor Cuomo is committed to providing multi-pronged efforts to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, further building upon his 2018 Women's Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity. Aside from the requirements mentioned above, the new law also: 

  • Prohibits employers from using a mandatory arbitration provision in an employment contract in relation to sexual harassment; 
  • Requires officers and employees of the state or of any public entity to reimburse the state for any state or public payment made upon a judgment of intentional wrongdoing related to sexual harassment;
  • Ensures that nondisclosure agreements can only be used when the condition of confidentiality is the explicit preference of the victim; and
  • Amends the law to protect contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants or others providing services in the workplace from sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

New York State Chief Diversity Officer Lourdes Zapata said, "Diversity is one of New York State's greatest strengths, but we cannot continue to move forward until our workplaces are free from discrimination and harassment. The actions announced today are twofold—both establishing and implementing statewide diversity and inclusion plans through the Office of Diversity Management, and providing public and private employers with the resources they need to properly handle misconduct. Under the Governor's leadership, we are empowering workplaces to foster a more inclusive, productive environment and ensuring that employees know their voices will be heard."

 

Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "With today's announcement, Governor Cuomo is raising the bar by ensuring that every business in the state has high standards for sexual harassment prevention. As part of our Gender Wage Gap study last year, we heard horrific examples of sexual harassment stifling an individual's ability to advance, not only in the workplace but throughout their entire career. In New York State, we are empowering targets of sexual harassment to step out of the shadows and demand action."

 

Division of Human Rights Commissioner Helen Diane Foster said, "These new guidelines further strengthen the oldest human rights law in the country and continue to demonstrate the Governor's and the state's commitment to protecting the rights of all residents."

 

Governor's Office of Employee Relations Director Michael N. Volforte said, "New York State takes its duty to address all forms of employee discrimination and harassment very seriously. These new measures announced today will advance equal opportunity in both the public and private sector and ensure that all employees are provided a safer and more inclusive work environment."

 

Department of Civil Service Acting Commissioner Lola W. Brabham said, "New York State has a long and proud history of embracing diversity and inclusion and under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we continue to make dramatic strides to create and strengthen opportunities for all New Yorkers. Today's actions build upon this progress and will go a long way towards ensuring the effective development and implementation of diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity initiatives across the entirety of the State's workforce."

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