State Senate expands workplace sexual harassment legislation expanded

Local News

The New York State Senate passed a sexual harassment bill this week that expands protections for victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Previously, an incident of sexual harassment had to be “severe or pervasive” in nature in order  for it to be considered sexual harassment. And, now that rule has been eliminated.

One act against a woman is more than enough, it should not have to be defined as pervasive to raise to the level of being a problem, said Sheri  L. Scavone executive director of the WNY Women’s Foundation

The legislation could lowers the bar for what qualifies as sexual harassment.

It might be an employee, maybe she heard a derogatory joke or a nickname, said Erin Ewell, attorney with The Coppola Law Firm. The firm handles labor, employment as well as sexual harassment issues. Or it’s something that’s not as severe of someone grabbing her chest or something along those lines, but it’s still related to sexual harassment.

legislation is a good step forward, but changes in work culture still need to happen

Scavone says, the legislation is a good step forward, but changes in work culture still need to happen.

“I believe that these policies will hopefully open up the dialogue, what we don’t want, is for men to be afraid to work with women, or for women to be afraid to say that’s not ok, she said. I think that’s where it starts, but certainly government intervening with policies and corporations intervening with enforcement of those policies, and really setting a tone as a culture.”

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