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Town Hall Meeting in Syracuse Explores Expanded Sexual Harassment Protections

Scott Willis

Stronger sexual harassment laws have gone into effect that will expand protections for women in New York facing harassment in their homes, workplaces, and in public spaces. 

State Division of Human Rights commissioner Angela Fernandez discussed the scope of the new laws at a town hall meeting Tuesday in Syracuse.

"The expansion in the laws include, 'Harassment is against the law whenever an individual is subjected to inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.'"

She says that can include receiving less pay for the doing same job on account of one’s gender.  Fernandez also noted that harassment no longer needs to be proven severe or pervasive for an employer to be liable, as had been the case in the past.

"That's a very good change. Although, over the years we have tried to push this boundary, now not having to show 'severre, pervasive [harassment]', because sometimes it was difficult. What is severe? What is pervasive? How many times do you have to be harassed on your job before you can file a claim?"

Panelists also addressed the growing problem of women who face sexual harassment from their landlords. Sally Santangelo is Director of CNY Fair Housing.

"We've seen a couple of different situations where housing providers have offered trades of sex in exchange for rental benefits, whether it's discounts in rent, security deposit, maybe just getting into the apartment altogether."

Tuesday, Governor Cuomo signed a new law which will increase sexual harassment protections for renters. The law will prevent landlords from harassing tenants through “unsafe, disruptive, or uninhabitable conditions” with the intention of forcing tenants out of the their homes.