#metoo Full Circle

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo speaks at the bill signing of the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” at City Hall, May 9, 2018.

Yesterday was a full circle moment — to be present at City Hall for the bill signing of the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,”  a comprehensive package of legislation strengthening New York City’s anti-sexual harassment policies and combating sexual harassment in the workplace.  Last month the City Council  passed 11 bills that will expand worker protections and improve transparency about harassment in city government— some of the toughest harassment protections in the country.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at the bill signing of the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act” at City Hall, May 9, 2018.

With the swiftness that the issue demands, the research and the passage of these bills has progressed rapid through local government in the wake of the #metoo movement to shine a light on sexual harassment and predation nationwide. The council members acknowleged that every new revelation of harassment and assault is a failure of the City to protect its most vulnerable residents.

On December 6, 2017 the NYC Human Rights Commission held its first public hearing on sexual harassment in over 40 years. Building on the foundation of the City’s historic “women and workplace” hearings of the 1970s which catalyzed a national movement to recognize and address sexual harassment in the workplace, New Yorkers from a variety of industries testified on their experiences of sexual harassment and challenges in reporting it.  I was there to support New York Women in Film and Television board president, Simone Pero, who was speaking on behalf of the entertainment industry.

NYWIFT board president Simone Pero testifies at the NYC Human Rights Commission public hearing on sexual harassment, December 6, 2017.

NYWFT board president Simone Pero testified:
“Although sexual harassment and discrimination have been a problem from time immemorial, and there is rightful outrage at the present moment, a seismic shift is occurring on how women — all women — are perceived and treated in our workplaces. Our approach at NYWIFT is to promote dialogue, provide tools and knowledge, and to foster compassionate, inclusive solutions. As responsible citizens of New York and representatives of the most influential industry in our culture, we look forward to working with the City of New York and this Commission to up-level the discussion with an open and holistic approach to expand our solutions. We welcome the opportunity to join our collective understanding and resources to ensure that all women in media and entertainment work in healthy, equitable and safe environments.”
New York City Public Advocate Leticia James, who co-sponsored one of the bills mandating anti-sexual harassment trainings at private companies, cut to the heart of the immeasurable loss of this epidemic:
“Sexual harassment is pervasive, it’s corrosive, it has been a silent roadblock on the road to career growth for generations. Up to 
85 percent of women report today that they have been sexually harassed at work according to a 2016 report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We know this. What we do not know, what we can never know is what we have lost. How many women were forced to quit jobs or pushed out of careers they excelled at? How many left entire industries? How many women have shelled their ambitions, their hopes and their dreams? Lost their livelihoods because of retaliation? How many billions of dollars in productivity were lost due to toxic workplaces? How many inventions were never invented and companies never started and ladders never climbed and glass ceilings never cracked? We just don’t know. We will never know.”
The NYC Human Rights Commission released a report on April 25, 2018 with policy recommendations based on this hearing.
Thank you to all the sponsors and advocates for making New York City a safer and more equitable place to work. The specific bills that Mayor Bill deBlasio signed yesterday are:
  1. Mandating Anti-Sexual Harassment Trainings at City Agencies
  2. Assessing Workplace Risk Factors Related to Sexual Harassment at City Agencies
  3. Requiring Information about Sexual Harassment to be Available Online for Public Access
  4. Creating an Anti-Sexual Harassment Rights and Responsibilities Poster
  5. Mandating Anti-Sexual Harassment Trainings at Private Companies: requiring all private employers in the city, with 15 or more employees, to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment interactive training for all employees of such employer, including interns and supervisory and managerial personnel after 90 days of initial hire.
  6. Reporting on Workplace Sexual Harassment within City Agencies on Annual Basis
  7. Expanding Sexual Harassment Protections to All Employees:  applying provisions related to gender based discrimination to all employers, regardless of the number of employees, and extending sexual harassment protection to employees of any company, regardless of its size
  8. Making Improvements to Clarify and Strengthen the Human Rights Law Relating to Sexual Harassment
  9. Expanding Sexual Harassment Protections to All Employees: to increase the statute of limitations for filing harassment claims based on unwelcome conduct that intimidates, interferes with, oppresses, threatens, humiliates or degrades a person based on such person’s gender from one year to three years from the time that the alleged harassment occurred
  10. Mandating City Agencies to Conduct Climate Surveys and Action Plans to Combat Sexual Harassment
  11. Addressing Sexual Harassment in Labor Services Employment Reports

NYC City Hall, leading the charge against sexual harassment.

  1. I’m hopeful these measures will improve things but power will always be abused no matter how much required training is put in place. However I am buoyed by some of the changes being made in culture and law following the Weinstein scandal.

    • busyk said:

      Thanks Lloyd! I’m very hopeful that these measures draw a line in the sand that we cannot walk away from, that we as a society do not accept abusive behavior from anyone, especially those in power.

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