New York State Legislative Agenda – 2014
The Women’s Equality Act (#WEA) will upgrade outdated New York State laws that are failing to prevent the unfair and discriminatory treatment of women in our state. By preserving women’s access to reproductive healthcare, ending discrimination in the workplace, and helping survivors of violence, the measures of WEA take a broad and impactful approach to advancing women’s equality. The measures of WEA connect the dots between reproductive health, safety and housing, economic security, and freedom from discrimination, which are all necessary for leveling the playing field and enabling the 10 million women of New York and their families to thrive.
Sponsor: Assemblymember Titus
Assembly: Passed 1/27
Senate: Referred to Labor.
Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women (A1264-2013/S5880-2013)
This bill was introduced as a stand-alone measure (in addition to its inclusion in the Women’s Equality Act), and will ensure that women who are pregnant are able to receive “reasonable accommodations” on the job, in order to continue working throughout their pregnancies. Employers are protected from providing any accommodations that would cause a severe hardship on the employer. The accommodations are generally simple, such as more frequent bathroom breaks, less heavy lifting, or providing a stool for sitting. New York City has already passed and implemented these protections.
Assembly: Referred to Gov. Operations.
Senate: Passed 6/12
Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) (A.2240D/ S.5879B)
The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act was introduced as a stand-alone bill (in addition to its inclusion in the Women’s Equality Act) by Assembly member, Amy Paulin and Senator, Andrew Lanza. The legislation strengthens the penalties for buying and selling children for sex, including creating the crime of aggravated patronizing of a minor. It ensures that trafficked women and girls are treated like victims and not criminals. By establishing an affirmative defense, the law will ensure trafficking victims are able to avoid unfair prosecution. Furthermore, it gives investigators the ability to wiretap those suspected of managing or running a sex trafficking facility. And finally, it removes stigmatizing language from the penal code by replacing the term “prostitute” with “person being prostituted.”
Assembly: Referred to Codes.
Senate: Passed 6/12
Protecting Interns from Sexual Harassment (S.5951-2013)
This legislation, introduced by State Senator Liz Krueger, would strengthen New York State’s Human Rights Law to ensure that unpaid interns are protected from sexual harassment and discrimination. There have been several notable state cases in which an intern subjected to sexual harassment had no legal recourse, because they were not officially considered “employees” who are protected by law. This bill would address this gaping loophole in the law, at a time when unpaid internships are becoming a standard and necessary resume builder on the path to full-time employment.
UPDATE: New York City passed its own laws protecting unpaid interns from sexual harassment.
Sponsor: State Senator Krueger
Assembly: Passed 6/16
Senate: Passed 6/18
Signed into law: 7/22
Boss Bill (S6578A-2013)
Protecting Individual Reproductive Health Decision Making
This legislation, introduced by Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, would close a loophole in New York’s current workplace anti-discrimination laws to ensure women are not discriminated against for their personal reproductive health choices and to protect their privacy. This “Boss Bill” is a response to the over 100 federal lawsuits by employers trying to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, including the pill and IUDs, without co-pays or deductibles. Clarifying this law will make sure that employers cannot deny employees birth control coverage under insurance plans.
Assembly: Passed 6/18
Senate: Referred to Rules.
Establishing Fairness in Divorce (A.6728B/S6473-2013)
This bill would amend the domestic relations law to ensure that more economically vulnerable spouses (in most cases, women) are able to secure consistent, fair, and predictable post-divorce maintenance awards. The last update to the state’s divorce law was in 2010, and more reforms are needed to fairly account for the wide variety of contributions both spouses make to advance the economic status of a family. Clarifying the law will reduce unnecessary litigation while also helping those who are unable to afford representation to cover their costs.
Assembly: Referred to Judiciary.
Senate: Referred to Judiciary.
Funding for Family Court Judges in New York State (S.7883/A.10139)
Family courts have a major impact on the lives of New York women and children. 96% of Family Court cases involve children who are victims of domestic violence, child support, custody or visitation cases. Unfortunately, the funding for New York State family courts is disproportionate to their significance in the lives of those they serve. According to the Citizen’s Committee for Children there are only 153 Family Court Judges for over 700,000 annual filings. The result of this disparity is that, “Delays between hearings can stretch for a month or more, as judges and lawyers juggle dockets and obligations in other courts. Child abuse, neglect, custody and support cases can take years to complete.” This is not only undesirable, it is unacceptable.
Gov. signs into law: 6/26