Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the TIME'S UP New York Safety Agenda is included in the 2019 Executive Budget. The package of reforms builds on the Governor's record of advancing nation-leading reforms to combat sexual harassment and assault, including ending sextortion, cracking down on nondisclosure agreements and mandatory arbitration and extending the storage timeline for forensic rape kits from 30 days to 20 years. Led by a coalition of women in New York including actresses, activists, attorneys and business executives, the TIME'S UP New York Safety Agenda is a four-part initiative to amend New York law in an effort to prevent sexual harassment and assault from occurring and enable survivors to seek justice. The TIME'S UP New York Safety Agenda in the Governor's 2019 Budget includes legislation to:
- Eliminate the statute of limitations for second and third-degree rape claims. There is no statute of limitations for first degree rape in New York State. The criminal code should be amended to eliminate the statute of limitations for second- and third-degree rape charges.
- Strengthen New York State workplace harassment laws to ensure employees can seek justice and perpetrators will be held accountable. Governor Cuomo proposes lowering the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment by amending the requirement that conduct be "severe or pervasive" to constitute actionable conduct.
- Mandate that all Non-Disclosure Agreements include specific language that employees may still file a complaint with a state or local agency and testify or participate in a government investigation. This requirement will ensure that NDAs are not used to mislead victims about their rights or deter them from working with law enforcement.
- Require all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster designed and distributed by the State Division of Human Rights.
In the wake of revelations from the #MeToo movement, a coalition of women in New York - organized by TIME'S UP - convened to discuss where state laws could be strengthened to enhance safety, equity, and dignity at work. The women noted that the statute of limitations for rape in New York, along with many other states, stands in the way of justice for survivors. Governor Cuomo included these safety reforms as part of his Women's Agenda in the 2019 Executive Budget.
"While the federal government shamefully ignores the voices of sexual assault survivors, New York is leading the fight to empower survivors and combat the scourge of sexual harassment and assault," Governor Cuomo said. "Building on progressive legislation passed last year to enact the nation's strongest anti-sexual harassment laws, we are taking new action to further amend our laws to ensure the strongest possible protections. I thank TIME'S UP for their critical advocacy on these issues and look forward to working together to ensure that our laws not only protect and support women, but also bring justice to survivors."
"The TIME'S UP New York Safety Agenda is a model of long-term, systemic change that we envision for the country," said Lisa Borders, President and CEO of TIME'S UP. "We thank Governor Cuomo for working with TIME'S UP to bring forth this new legislation - a solution that will protect women, enabling them to pursue justice under the law without the constraint of a time limit, and deter this illegal behavior.
"By eliminating the statutes of limitations for second and third-degree rape, New York will send a powerful message to survivors everywhere that their stories and their experiences matter and that there should not be an expiration date on obtaining justice," said Robbie Kaplan, Partner, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP and Co-Founder, TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund. "TIME'S UP is grateful to Governor Cuomo for including the TIME'S UP New York Safety Agenda in his 2019 executive budget and we are eager to see the Legislature act to make New York law commensurate with the law in other progressive states like California that have also made these changes in the wake of #metoo and #timesup."
"We must continue to change the culture and ensure women are protected from sexual assault and harassment," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "In partnership with TIME'S UP, these reforms will build on New York's nation-leading efforts to combat sexual assault and make sure survivors have the care and support they need to help in the recovery process. This critical addition to the budget is another step in advancing women's rights and achieving full equality once and for all."
Secretary to the Governor and Chair, New York State Council on Women and Girls, Melissa DeRosa said, "Last year, Governor Cuomo passed the strongest anti-sexual harassment policy in the nation to take direct aim at the culture of secrecy and abuses of power that allowed sexual harassment to thrive. As the federal government shamefully continues to do nothing to help survivors of sexual assault and harassment, New York is once again leading the way forward in the fight for equality and justice."