'Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable': Cuomo comments draw ire | WHEC.com

'Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable': Cuomo comments draw ire

Updated: May 13, 2021 04:53 PM
Created: May 13, 2021 04:26 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The lawyer for one of the governor's accusers is calling a statement he made during a press conference Friday "jaw-dropping."

When talking about the sexual harassment allegations against him, the governor said, "Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable. That is not harassment. If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment, that's you feeling uncomfortable."

Many were upset by the statement and they're turning to New York State law. 

The Sexual Harassment Working Group said, "Just because you believe you can't make anyone ‘feel’ harassed by your actions, doesn't make it legally true."

Debra Katz, the attorney representing Charlotte Bennett, the second woman who came forward accusing Cuomo of harassment, referenced the New York State Equal Opportunity Handbook:

“Governor’s Cuomo’s remarks are jaw dropping. For someone who signed the law defining sexual harassment in New York State, and who claims to have taken the state’s mandated sexual harassment training every year despite Ms. Bennett seeing someone else take it on his behalf, Gov. Cuomo continues to show an alarming degree of ignorance about what constitutes sexual harassment. 

“The law is very clear on this. If an employer makes unwelcome jokes, comments, asks probing questions of a sexual nature or makes unwanted sexual propositions – which is exactly what Gov. Cuomo has already admitted to having directed toward my client, Charlotte Bennett – that employer has violated New York state law. There is no gray area here.

“The Governor needs sexual harassment training, now. His studied ignorance is truly alarming.” 

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt also weighed in with the following statement Thursday:

"Governor Cuomo’s nonsensical “definition” of harassment today solidifies what my colleagues and I have been saying for months -- he is not fit to lead the state. Regardless, as an attorney, he should be first to know that ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

"If this is truly his understanding of the law, then he may be in far more legal trouble than anyone has imagined up to this point.

"The more Democratic lawmakers continue to appear alongside him in public, the more they continue to normalize the toxic and egregious behavior by the Governor. It’s time they step up, do their jobs, and hold the Governor accountable."

New York’s Equal Employment Opportunity Rights and Responsibilities Handbook gives the following definition of sexual harassment:

“Actions that may constitute sexual harassment based upon a hostile work environment may include, but are not limited to, words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation or physical violence which are of a sexual nature, or which are directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex. Sexual harassment also consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances, sexually explicit derogatory statements or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient, which cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation, or which interfere with the recipient’s job performance.”

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