NYS removes 'severe and pervasive' as a standard to file a sexual harassment claim

August 13, 2019 07:24 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) --- It is now easier for people in New York state to file claims against their employer, saying they were sexually harassed. News10NBC spent the day trying to understand these new guidelines. 

Up until this week, if someone felt they were sexually harassed at work, they had to prove it was "severe and pervasive." On Monday, the standard of proof was changed when the governor signed the new law. 


"Let's honor all the women who have suffered this pain and endured this humiliation," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the Capitol in Albany. 

The bill the governor signed removes the words "severe and pervasive" as a standard for filing a sexual harassment claim. 

"There was a threshold that was incredibly high," said Elias Farah who is part of the Sexual Harassment Working Group. 

That's the group in New York state that helped to get the law changed. News10NBC tried to get Farah to explain how the new standard is going to work. 

Elias Farah, Sexual Harassment Working Group: "Somebody say, brushing up against them or blocking a doorway or something. You know the law could see that as not meeting the severe and pervasive standard. In cases like this now, the level has been changed. So it's been lessened. So if a person deemed it to be harassing, it was harassing them, it doesn't necessarily have to be that severe standard where it was always going on or it was overt."

Complaints can be filed with the State Division of Human Rights which is located on Monroe Avenue in Rochester. News10NBC read the division's annual report. Eight out of 10 complaints it gets deal with employment and the majority of claims are over race, disability, retaliation and sex. 

The new law does a couple of other key things. 

It restricts non-disclosure agreements so if the employee settles with the company, the employee can still file a complaint. If the employee wins the case, the employer can be ordered to pay attorney fees and it increases the window to file a claim with Human Rights from 12 months to three years. 


Berkeley Brean

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