NY Women Win Stronger Anti-Discrimination Laws!
Heastie Answers NOW’s Call to Action: Assembly Passes Expanded Pregnancy and Sexual Harassment Protections
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2015 – Albany, NY – NOW NY called on Speaker Carl Heastie to take bold action this legislative session to bring to the floor important legislation to advance women’s rights. He has led his conference to pass bills to end human trafficking and domestic violence, close the wage gap, raise the minimum wage and put New York businesses on notice that discriminating against women just got tougher. Today’s action paves the way for all of these measures to be signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
“Carl Heastie has taken bold action in his first legislative session as Assembly Speaker,” said Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW NY. “He has put businesses on notice that they can’t cheat us, discriminate against us or sexually harass us anymore.”
The Assembly’s unanimous passage today of two important pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening women’s economic status and establishing fair workplaces for women culminates a three-year campaign by NOW NY to make women’s rights a priority in our state Capitol.
Earlier this year, NOW NY welcomed Speaker Heastie to his new leadership position with a firm call to action for the women of New York, asking him to move forward on a number of key measures, including sexual harassment, pregnancy accommodations and equal pay.
NOW NY President Sonia Ossorio said, “Speaker Heastie and the NYS Assembly have undoubtedly answered our call for bold action for women this year. These anti-discrimination bills address key challenges that span a woman’s working life. By pushing policies to improve women’s economic security forward, we are leveling the playing field for women at work and improving the lives of families at home.”
Women face a slate of challenges in the workplace: Women file the majority of sexual harassment claims made to the New York State Division of Human Rights, yet 60% of private employers have been exempt from state sexual harassment laws. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that one in four women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
“The effects of sexual harassment are too pervasive and costly to ignore, negatively impacting individuals, families and the economy. Banning workplace sexual harassment is real progress,” Ossorio said. “And women shouldn’t have to pick between a healthy pregnancy and their job. Consolidating gains for women and their families will make New York stronger.”
Although 75% of women will become pregnant while working, current law lacks adequate protections for pregnant workers to remain on the job. Ensuring employers provide accommodations for at-risk pregnant workers and closing the loophole that allows small businesses to circumvent current state sex harassment laws are two measures that were packaged as part of the original Women’s Equality Act.
“With these two Women’s Equality Act measures set to become law, we are leveling the playing field for women,” Ossorio said. “That’s always a good thing.”
The bills passed today include:
- Stopping Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces A.5360 (Galef)/S.2 (Valesky) which will expand sexual harassment protections under state law to those private employers currently exempt–those with fewer than four employees.
- Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women A.4272 (Gunther)/S.8 (Hannon), which will require employers to provide modest adjustments for pregnant workers who need them to safely stay on the job while maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
The National Organization for Women is the nation’s largest organization working to advance women’s rights and improve women’s lives. NOW New York aims to protect and promote reproductive justice, secure workplace equality, combat racism and homophobia, and end discrimination and violence against all women.