Pin It
Town of Lansing

The Lansing Town Board adopted a preliminary sexual harassment prevention policy early this month at a working meeting at the Lansingville Fire Station.  The move was to bring the Town in compliance with a state mandate for all employers to put a policy in place by October 9th.  While Governor Andrew Cuomo said on October 1 that finalized guidelines and training materials were released that day, Lansing Town Attorney said that municipalities in particular were struggling to meet the deadline because there was so little lead time to comply with the materials.

"There are a lot of municipalities scrambling," Krogh said. "The law that did this was actually in the 2019 state budget.  The guidance documentation was behind.  I assume the vast number of municipalities will not come into compliance by the 9th."

Cuomo signed the 2019 fiscal year state budget on April 12th.  The budget contained what the Governor is characterizing as ' the nation's strongest and most comprehensive sexual harassment package'. 

"While the federal government repeatedly ignores the voices of women speaking out against the scourge of sexual violence, in New York we are taking action," Governor Cuomo said. "We are doing everything in our power to crack down on sexual harassment and ensure inappropriate workplace conduct is addressed swiftly and appropriately. These common sense policies will help employees and employers know their rights and responsibilities and help enforce the strongest anti-sexual harassment package in the nation."

Cuomo summarized the new law, saying that it...
  • Prohibits employers from using a mandatory arbitration provision in an employment contract in relation to sexual harassment;
  • Requires officers and employees of the state or of any public entity to reimburse the state for any state or public payment made upon a judgment of intentional wrongdoing related to sexual harassment;
  • Ensures that nondisclosure agreements can only be used when the condition of confidentiality is the explicit preference of the victim; and
  • Amends the Human Rights Law to protect contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants or others providing services in the workplace from sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Establishes minimum standards for sexual harassment prevention policies and training.  All employers operating in New York State are required to either adopt and use the State's model policy and training as-is, or to use the models as a basis to establish their own policy and training. All employees working in New York State must receive sexual harassment training by or before October 9, 2019.
Krogh and Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne said that the new town policy is a beginning for the purpose of meeting the deadline.  Krogh said that sexual harassment is a form of workplace violence, and suggested that the it be merged with the workplace violence policy at some point in the future.  LaVigne said merging the two would also streamline training, which he said would be advantageous because it is difficult to get all town employees in one place for training.  He said that especially is true of the Highway Department -- with the greatest number of town employees -- because that department must respond to unpredictable weather conditions.

"The person that have to do our workplace violence training is not certified and maybe should be certified later to do this also," LaVigne said. "It would be nice to do both in the same day, considering we have to get all the employees together to do that.  Do we blend this together and make one big policy that covers both?  Those are things for the Board to discuss."

Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul have been constantly critical of federal policies under President Donald Trump, and used the announcement to bring attention to the controversy surrounding Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's alleged sexual misconduct that did not prevent him from being sworn in as Associate Justice last weekend.

"The images of Anita Hill flashed before the nation this week were a stark reminder that for far too long, women have endured workplace harassment," said Hochul. "As a rare woman in elected office, I know more can be done to change the culture and create an environment where women can come forward and be believed. That's what we are doing in New York with these nation-leading initiatives that will ensure the security of victims and a safe environment for all employees in the workplace. These guidelines and training programs will be made available to employers across the state, building on our efforts to strengthen equal opportunity in the workplace."

Town officials said the Board will revisit the policy later this year after taking time to consider the policy more thoughtfully.  In the meantime, the new policy brings the Town into compliance with the state mandate.

"I think adopting it as a first step is the right move..." said Town Attorney Guy Krogh. " meet the deadline as well as to make the public declaration that's required by state law."

Pin It