New York’s Sexual Harassment Legal guidelines Defined

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) – It’s been six years since Buffalo’s Elias Farah stood up to report sexual harassment and retaliation charges against his boss, then Cheektowaga MP Angela Wozniak.

After publicizing his allegations, Farah said he was harassed, rejected and blacklisted by Wozniak and her party.

“We all have a very similar story,” he said. “It always starts with someone in power.”

Farah says now, six years later, his case is still playing in court, and taxpayers are paying the legal bills for a government member who is no longer serving.

“Politicians who have their lawyers paid for,” he said. “Paid in full by the government for unlimited defense.”

He says this is one of the reasons why victims sometimes don’t appear.

“It’s really difficult for a victim to come forward because they don’t have the same protection,” he said.

Farah often says that when a victim tries to come forward, they are put to shame by many who stand behind the accused.

Farah is part of a group in Albany called the Sexual Harassment Task Force. It is made up of victims who experienced sexual harassment while serving in the New York government.

The group has helped advocate material changes to New York law relating to sexual harassment in the workplace.

In 2019, the language of the law was changed due to the efforts of this group. Previously, sexual harassment in the workplace had to rise to the level of “severe and ubiquitous”. The 2019 law changed that language to “strict or omnipresent”.

“It can either be something heavy or something that happens repeatedly,” Farah said. “Every year we look at the agenda that helps prevent this from happening to anyone.”

He says his group won’t stop.

According to Farah, the group continues to work on more reforms to make it easier for employees to get in touch.

“In Albany there is no accountability for anyone because you are essentially answering your own colleagues,” he said of the investigation. Farah supports a full and independent investigation or any allegation that may emerge from the policy.

Currently, the New York Attorney General defines sexual harassment in the workplace as follows:

Sexual harassment can be verbal, visual, and / or physical, including:

• sexually offensive remarks or jokes;

• Unwanted touching or tapping;

• Forced sexual acts;

• Requests for sexual favors of a sexually stimulating nature (e.g. asking the employee to dig coins out of a manager’s pocket);

• viewing pornographic images;

• Comments (either free or derogatory) about a person’s gender or sexual preferences;

• Sexual gestures (such as pantomime sexual acts).

As of August 2020, the statute of limitations for reporting an incident has been extended from one to three years, according to the state.

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