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CBS Radio: NY Lawmakers In Last-Minute Push To Strengthen Sexual Harassment Laws

May 24, 2019

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – With less than two weeks left in the legislative session in Albany, there’s a last-minute push from lawmakers hoping to toughen the state’s sexual harassment laws.

The newly emboldened progressives in Albany have made combating sexual harassment a top priority.

Lawmakers from both houses of the Legislature held a joint hearing on the issue in Manhattan Friday, a follow-up to a hearing in February that was the first of its kind in almost 30 years.

The hearing came at the urging of ex-legislative aides who said they were harassed by their former superiors.

There’s a package of bills to go along with the hearings. One bill levels the playing field between staffers and lobbyists, another lowers the standard for what qualifies as discriminatory harassment, and a third extends the statute of limitations.

But lawmakers are having trouble turning their advocacy into action. The bills have yet to go anywhere with just 13 days left in this year’s legislative session.

Frank Kerbein, a director at the Business Council of New York State, told Politico he’s concerned the bills could mean more unnecessary lawsuits.

“Most of this behavior can be stopped by talking to the person and correcting their behavior,” Curbine said.

Rita Pasarell, a member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, says comments like that are victim-blaming.

“Frank, this is not the standard we are asking for. We are asking for a safe environment. We are asking for people to be treated fairly on their merit and not to be sexually harassed,” she said.

Kerbein told Politico that business groups are worried removing a “severe or pervasive” standard would “unnecessarily” increase the number of legal cases and “diminish real complaints of harassment.”

State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried says strong measures against sexual harassment will help businesses, not hurt them.

“In some ways it’s hard to believe after all these years, there are still leaders in the business community who are willing in public to trivialize the sexual harassment issue,” Gottfried.