In-Depth: What are the repercussions for breaking sexual harassment laws? | WHEC.com

In-Depth: What are the repercussions for breaking sexual harassment laws?

Jennifer Lewke
Created: August 04, 2021 06:16 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ report on the investigation into allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed not only a pattern of sexual harassment but workplace bullying and intimidation by the Governor and some of his top aides that violated the law.

Many of you are wondering in the absence of criminal charges, what the repercussions for sexual harassment are.

Independent investigators brought in by the Attorney General to handle the investigation say, “the executive chambers' workplace culture, (is) one rife with bullying, fear and intimidation on the one hand while normalizing frequent flirtation and gender-based comments by the Governor on the other, created a condition that allowed the sexual harassment and retaliation to occur and to persist.”

The report says that the Governor broke state and federal laws but those are civil laws, not criminal which means he may only face monetary penalties in the future.

Assemblymember Jen Lunsford (D-Perinton) spoke with News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke about what happens from here.

Jennifer Lewke –  A private employer would have the ability to fire someone based on the results but we're in a different boat because he's a public official.

Assemblymember Lunsford – So, the firing process for an elected official is the impeachment process.  In a private company they would also be subject to civil suits which the Governor could be subject to as well but that would be separate from the impeachment process.

Jennifer Lewke – A civil suit will open up the taxpayers possibly to having to pay any damages, right? 

Assemblymember Lunsford – To be honest, I'm not actually sure. We’ve asked this question and there are some provisions for certain kinds of infractions where an elected official is responsible. Also, I know that we previously passed laws that if an elected official is found guilty of a felony that we can yank their pension… I would like to look into a little bit about whether any of these infractions or issues would rise to that level.

Some of the top aides in the Governor’s administration are also accused of retaliation and intimidation but they will likely stay on staff unless and until the Governor leaves.

Jennifer Lewke – What is your message to women in particular, who will see this and say, “okay… the AG says that he has this pattern of behavior, the women in his office are constantly subjected to this yet he continues to run his office indefinitely until the process place itself out?”

Assemblymember Lunsford – We see you, we hear you, we believe you and there is more strength in coming forward than taking the abuse… I hope that as the pressure mounts and as he (Governor Cuomo) begins to count the votes, that he changes his mind (about resigning) because I think that an impeachment process is lengthy and time-consuming and distracting from the hard work that we have to do.


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