Gov. Hochul signs bills aimed at combatting workplace sexual harassment

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York will soon have more resources aimed at combatting sexual harassment in the workplace.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed three bills into law Wednesday.

The first will require the Division of Human Rights to establish a toll-free confidential hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment that will also connect complainants with experienced pro-bono attorneys.

The second clarifies that the State is considered an employer of anyone serving in the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches, including the staff of elected officials or judges, and is therefore subject to the provisions of the Human Rights Law. Hochul’s office said this will prevent the state from avoiding responsibility for the harassment of public employees.

The third defines releasing personnel records to discredit victims of workplace discrimination, except when it is necessary to comply with an investigation, as a retaliatory action under Human Rights Law. It also gives victims of this type of now-unlawful retaliation the opportunity to file a complaint with the Attorney General.

Hochul said addressing sexual harassment is part of her "Equity Agenda", which also included the creation of a Council on Gender Equity, increased support for minority and women-owned businesses and investments in child care access.

It comes seven months after former governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation amid claims he sexually harassed multiple women, which he denies.

"This is just the beginning," Hochul said. "These are the bills that are on my desk. I know there are more bills that are being considered by the Senate and the Assembly. And I look forward to keeping my pens sharp here, my pencils sharp, to be able to sign as you make the progress through the legislature over the next session, because I will work with you. You have an advocate in me."

She signed the legislation at a women’s history month celebration with advocates for gender equity and women’s rights.

Watch the press conference where she signed the legislation in the video in the player below (mobile users, click here):

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