Assemblyman Nader Sayegh Helps Pass New Law to Fight Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace

Assemblyman Nader Sayegh (D-Yonkers) announced that he helped pass legislation to further the Assembly’s continued efforts to combat discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace (A.8421). The measure, which strengthens protections for workers across New York and removes the requirement that harassment be “severe or pervasive” to be legally actionable, also has the support of the Senate and governor.

“The idea that a victim’s harassment and suffering has to be intense or continuous is limiting and daunting to victims when we should be empowering them to come forward,” said Assemblyman Sayegh. “Sexual harassment does not need to fall under some subjective definition of ‘severe or pervasive’ for it to cause real and very damaging trauma, or to hurt someone’s career. If we want to truly tackle the root causes of harassment and make our workplaces safe spaces for all, we need to let New Yorkers know that we’re listening and we’re working to protect them.”

With the measure eliminating the “severe or pervasive” standard, it instead defines harassment as an unlawful discriminatory practice when it subjects an individual to inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment due to age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, domestic violence status or because an individual filed a complaint. All employers in the state, regardless of the number of employees, are subject to the stronger protections.

The measure builds on the Assembly’s push to combat discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Last year, the Assembly convened a workgroup to examine various sexual harassment issues and develop recommendations that confront the issue head-on. And earlier this year, the Legislature held joint hearings on sexual harassment in the workplace to learn how to better combat this scourge and hear from victims. Legislators listened to victims’ stories of harassment and discrimination at the hands of powerful individuals and the subsequent retribution, along with experts who have studied ways to tackle this issue. This legislation aims to proactively support employees so that they are able to speak out and hold wrongdoers accountable without added hurdles and technicalities to wade through, noted Assemblyman Sayegh.

The Assembly made major headway with last year’s state budget, including establishing a model policy and model training program to prevent discrimination, expanding protections to include non-employees, such as contractors, vendors or consultants, and prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses related to workplace discrimination.

“Harassment and discrimination are firmly rooted in our culture, but the only way we can fight back is by continuing to dig up those roots to create healthier bedrock to build on,” said Assemblyman Sayegh. “Oppressive and demeaning attitudes have caused pain for too long and stifled the professional growth of countless workers, but we’re coming at this issue with every tool we have so every New Yorker knows they’re believed and they belong.”