What might changes to sexual-harassment laws look like?

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

The heck are you asking me for?

Oh, right. The whole employment lawyer thing. ***cracks knuckles; adjusts sash***

Let’s do this…

I’m going to skip the whole “unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months” schtick and fast forward to this past Tuesday. It was then that NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a number of changes law that would impact how sexual harassment is addressed in the state. You can read his full remarks here.

Governor Cuomo’s remarks boil down to five main points:

  1. Taxpayers will not fund settlements of sexual harassment claims against public-sector employees.
  2. All branches of state and local government will have a “Uniform Code of Sexual Harassment.”
  3. Unless the victim wants it, no confidential settlement agreements (public-sector only) relating to sexual harassment or sexual assault.
  4. All private companies that do business with the State must report sexual assault and harassment statistics.
  5. Employers cannot require employees to arbitrate sexual harassment claims.

Clearly, the first two won’t impact private-sector employers. But, could NY start a trend with the final three?

Late last year, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House and Senate that would forbid employers from requiring employees to arbitrate sexual harassment claims.

Meanwhile, just before Thanksgiving, legislation was introduced in Pennsylvania that would ban all confidential settlement agreements of sexual harassment claims, whether the victim likes it or not. I expressed how crappy that proposal was. And, anecdotally, I can tell you that friends of mine who practice on the employee rights side agree with me. As much as I hate to give NY any credit over PA, between the two, I like the NY version better.

Giants and Jets stink, by the way. Oh, wait. Aren’t they New Jersey teams?

Given that most victims will opt for confidentiality, I could foresee other states adopting No. 3.

The devil is in the details on No, 4. Governor Cuomo proposes mandatory annual reporting for any companies that do business with the State that will require disclosure of the number of sexual harassment violations and nondisclosure agreements executed by that company. What’s a “sexual harassment violation”? Unclear. Moreover, we’ve seen a successful legal challenge to similar reporting requirements. Therefore, let’s wait and see on this one.

One alternative may be to require that companies doing business with the state first certify that they have an anti-harassment policy and have trained their workforce on sexual harassment.

However, sexual-harassment laws may change in 2018, well, just make you have a good employment lawyer on speed dial.

Know any good ones?

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