NYC launches unit to combat harassment in the workplace
- New York has launched a new Gender-Based Anti-Harassment Unit to strengthen efforts to combat gender-based harassment in the workplace, with a main goal being more effective investigations and interventions for harassment claims.
- The unit will escalate attention toward high-priority harassment cases, reduce instances of retaliation and identify widespread harassment within a workplace. The city says workplace gender-based and sexual harassment claims have increased over the past three years.
- In April, the city will begin offering free online gender-based and sexual harassment training to all employers. The city also hopes that the unit will help to raise awareness about employer obligations and employee rights.
The new Gender-Based Anti-Harassment Unit will fall under the existing NYC Commission on Human Rights. Along with the addition of the new unit, the commission is providing legal guidance with definitions for gender identity and gender expression, with updated terms including transgender and intersex.
New York already has an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination law, the NYC Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination and harassment in housing, employment and public accommodations. The commission also enforces the Stop Sexual Harassment Act that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed last May. That extends the statute of limitations for filing cases from one to three years, expands the amount of employers who must comply and requires requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide employees with sexual harassment training. The commission can fine those who willfully violate the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies up to $250,000 and award compensatory damages to victims.
Leaders recognize that being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace affects employees' well-being. It can lead victims to feel unsafe and perform poorly on the job, in some situations even having a greater trickle-down economic effect. It can cause victims to lose economic mobility or even their jobs if they are retaliated against.
Leaders in New York are among those who view ensuring residents' well-being and economic livelihood as government's duty. With harassment claims on the rise in recent years, they took greater action to mitigate the problem and provide additional resources for victims.
“We know sexual and gender-based harassment can have devastating consequences on individual employees and the workplace as a whole and can hinder the social and economic advancement of populations disproportionately impacted by this issue," said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phillip Thompson in a statement. "I am confident this new unit at the NYC Commission on Human Rights will help better address the increasing numbers of incidents reported by New Yorkers and will bring them the justice they deserve and need to get on with their lives.”
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