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De Blasio Admninistration Launches Gender-Based Anti-Harassment Unit

January 25, 2019

Housed within NYC Commission on Human Rights, new unit investigating gender-based and sexual harassment complaints in the workplace

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that a new unit tasked with more effectively intervening and investigating claims of sexual and gender-based harassment in the workplace is operational. The Gender-Based Anti-Harassment Unit will be housed within the NYC Commission on Human Rights and will charged with escalating high priority cases more quickly, reducing instances of retaliation, such as such as losing jobs or other adverse actions, and identifying widespread harassment within entities. This unit will help strengthen New York City’s ongoing efforts to combat gender-based harassment in the workplace.

“Workplaces must be safe and supportive environments that are free from harassment,” said Mayor de Blasio. “This new unit will help the city double down on its commitment to investigate cases and help bring justice to all New Yorkers who have been victims of workplace harassment.”

“Sexual harassment has no place anywhere, and we are taking big strides to eradicate it in New York City workplaces,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “The creation of this team will help ensure that all claims of sexual harassment are investigated quickly and thoroughly.”

“Workplace discrimination and issues affecting NYC workforce are major focuses of my work in the de Blasio administration,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phillip Thompson. “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. 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.” 

“As reports of sexual and gender-based harassment continue to come in from every corner of the city, the need for swift intervention could not be more crucial,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Carmelyn P. Malalis. “Victims of sexual and gender-based harassment – who frequently experience additional discrimination such as race, immigration status or disability-based harassment - are often afraid to come forward, fearing they will lose their jobs or worse, not be believed. This new unit will allow the Commission to immediately addressing ongoing harassment and retaliation and rooting out widespread harassment more effectively. We look forward to utilizing this new unit to stop harassment in its tracks and make sure that every victim gets the justice and protections they deserve.”

Under the Stop Sexual Harassment Act, signed by Mayor de Blasio last May and enforced by the Commission, the statute of limitations for filing cases at the Commission was extended from one to three years. It expanded the jurisdiction of the Law to cover employers of any size, and requires City agencies and employers to post signs on the law. The Act also requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to employees. The Commission will offer a free, online gender-based and sexual harassment training to employers citywide in April 2019. By providing these resources to employers and through the creation of the dedicated unit at the Commission, the City hopes to raise awareness about both employer obligations and employee rights, and provide another avenue for justice to all New Yorkers. 

Workplace gender-based and sexual harassment claims at the Commission increased over the past three years. Of 117 claims filed in 2017 alleging gender discrimination in the workplace, 56 included a claim of gender-based harassment up from 48 in 2014. The Commission is currently investigating 180 claims of workplace gender based harassment.

New York City is home to one of the strongest anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in the nation, the NYC Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination and harassment in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Along with the launch of this new unit, the Commission is also announcing the addition of gender identity definitions in legal guidance regarding discrimination on the basis of gender expression, with updated terms such as transgender and intersex.

The Commission has the authority to fine violators with civil penalties of up to $250,000 for willful and malicious violations of the Law and can award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional distress damages and other benefits. The Commission can also order trainings on the NYC Human Rights Law, changes to policies, and restorative justice relief, such as community service and mediated apologies.

“The creation of this unit strengthens our administration's bold leadership on these important issues,” said Cecile Noel, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence. “I look forward to collaborating with the unit and exploring ways that we can collectively work to address gender-based harassment in New York City.”

“There is no place where the intersection of safety and economic mobility is more clearly defined than in the workplace. New Yorkers of all gender identities, gender expressions, and backgrounds have the right to safety and security in all public and private spaces, and to have responsive, transparent, and fair resources and processes to turn to when that right is compromised. I applaud the Mayor and Commissioner Malalis, and the Commission on Human Rights on the launch of the Gender-Based Harassment Unit, and look forward to their continued partnership in promoting the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers,” said Jacqueline Ebanks, Executive Director, NYC Commission on Gender Equity.

“This new unit is a crucial addition to the City's continued efforts to protect workers, especially those who might be most vulnerable to ‎harassment in the workplace,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We are proud, under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, to have a robust right to safe leave for anyone who experiences harassment and we look forward to continuing to work with the our sister agencies as we ensure gender-based harassment has no place in New York City.”

“Under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, the City is prioritizing the well-being of all New Yorkers in the workplace and creating a more inclusive local economy,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “The Department of Small Business Services is proud to be a partner in the effort to educate businesses about the expanded harassment laws signed into law by the Mayor last year and being enforced by the NYC Human Rights Commission.”

New York City remains at the forefront of the fight to combat gender-based harassment in the workplace and has launched several initiatives to combat harassment head on, including:

  • The Commission is proactively educating employers and small businesses about the new expansion of gender-based harassment laws in New York City. This includes visiting every BID (Business Improvement Districts) in New York City, which represents more than 85,000 businesses; engaging business associations, advocates, lawyers, and elected officials to further educate businesses about the new law; and partnering with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, Chambers of Commerce and NYC Small Business Services, which distributes information to over 220,000 small businesses in the City.
  • Launching an award-winning citywide ad campaign through the NYC Commission on Human Rights earlier this year, encouraging New Yorkers to report sexual harassment to the Commission. The campaign ran more than 5,000 ads in subway cars, bus shelters, LinkNYC kiosks, nail salons, bodegas and barber shops. The campaign also ran print ads in local outlets and videos on NYC and TaxiTV and across digital media.
  • Holding the first public hearing in more than 40 years in December 2017 to learn about New Yorkers’ experiences with gender-based harassment in a number of industries. The report included the challenges New Yorkers face in reporting harassment and obtaining justice. Industries represented included hospitality, retail, domestic work, construction, media and entertainment, and fashion and modeling.
  • Issuing a report by the NYC Commission on Human Rights with recommendations from victims and advocates across different industries. Details and recommendations in the report were taken from a public hearing in 2017 that examined how employers can better address and prevent gender-based harassment in the workplace.
  • Expanding and renaming the Mayor’s Office to End Gender-Based Violence to add gender-based violence protections
  • Creating the Gender Equity Commission to create a deep and lasting institutional commitment to tearing down equity barriers across New York City.

If you believe you are the victim of gender-based harassment or any other type of discrimination under the NYC Human Rights Law, call the Commission’s Infoline at 718-722-3131. Reports may also be filed anonymously and reported on the Commission’s website.

For more information on the protections against sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, read a factsheet and brochure on the Commission’s website at NYC.Gov/HumanRights, and these instructions on how to report gender-based harassment.

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