At a press conference before the hearing in Albany on sexual harassment, from left, Leah Hebert, Cynthia Nixon, Erica Vladimir, Rita Pasarell,
Danielle Bennett, Patricia Gunning and Eliyanna Kaiser. Hebert, Vladimir, Pasarell, Bennett and Kaiser are all members of the Sexual Harassment
Working Group, or SHWG.
Cyn, victims call for crackdown on harassment
BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELLDOMENECH
On Feb.13., the New York State
Legislature held its fi rst public
hearing on sexual harassment
in 27 years.
“Some people in offi ce view this as
a problem that they would like to go
away,” said Cynthia Nixon, the actor
and activist who ran for governor last
year, speaking at the law offi ce of Cuti
Hector Wang on Feb. 12.
“But this is a problem that we need to
not go away but that we need to solve,”
Nixon was joined by fi ve members of
the Sexual Harassment Working Group,
or SHWG, and Patricia Gunning, a candidate
for Rockland County district attorney,
at the 305 Broadway law offi ce.
All seven members of SHWG say they
suffered sexual harassment while formerly
working in the state Legislature.
The gathering’s purpose was to push
for more hearings across the state on
the issue and to emphasize the importance
of new survivor-centric sexualharassment
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas
and state Senator Alessandra Biaggi
introduced a series of survivor-centric
sexual harassment bills in December.
As a group of women who experienced
sexual harassment or abuse while
working in New York State government,
the fi ght against sexual harassment is
deeply personal for the SHWG members.
The inspiration for Simotas’s and
Biaggi’s bills came from a policy paper
released by the group.
All of the SHWG members present at
the press conference, along with D.C.-
based member Elizabeth Crothers,
planned to testify in Albany. They view
themselves, unfortunately, as experts
on the topic.
“Some of the proposed legislation is
very technical, so there might be unintended
loopholes,” said SHWG member
Erica Vladimir, who accused former
state Senator Jeff Klein of unwanted
kissing in 2015.
“You won’t really know about those
unless you are on the ground and you
have actually gone through these experiences,”
PHOTO BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH
Vladimir said. “By telling our
stories, that can really provide a strong
foundation for the strongest laws in the
Simotas and Biaggi introduced a total
of six bills that aligned with SHWG’s
The fi rst of these would require that
anyone entering a confi dentiality agreement
fi rst be given a written waiver
explaining the full consequences of the
agreement and the rights they would be
The second bill would require all
employers to tell their employees that
just because they have signed an employment
contract with nondisclosure
or nondisparagement provisions, they
can still speak to law enforcement, the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
the state Division of Human
Rights or a local Commission on Human
The third bill would extend the time
to fi le a sexual harassment or discrimination
complaint with the New York
State Human Rights Division from one
year to three years.
The fourth measure mandates that
all state employees complete annual
The fi fth bill requires all that all settlement
agreements related to discrimination,
sexual harassment or sexual assault
be disclosed to the New York State
Attorney General’s Offi ce.
The sixth would mandate that a victim
of sexual harassment is entitled to
extra compensation if she or he agrees
to settling with a confi dentiality agreement.
“We are going to be watching and see
who really shows up and who really listens,”
Nixon said of the hearing.
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18 February 21, 2019 TVG Schneps Media