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Governor Hochul Institutes New Anti-Harassment Standards For State Employees

Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at Binghamton University's Health Sciences in Johnson City.
Mike Groll/
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at Binghamton University's Health Sciences in Johnson City. Oct. 25, 2021.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul says she’s enacting several anti-harassment and anti-discrimination measures in state government, with a particular focus on the office of the governor.

Hochul took office just over two months ago, after former Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned in a sexual harassment scandal. A report by the state Attorney General found Cuomo sexually harassed eleven women, many of them junior employees in his office. He was accused of overseeing an executive chamber rife with bullying and intimidation. The report also found that Cuomo and some of his former top aides tried to retaliate against one of his accusers when she came forward to complain.

Hochul, who promised that she would end what was described as a toxic workplace, sent a video message to all state employees outlining the changes she’s making.

“First, and it should go without saying, we will treat one another with respect,” Hochul said in the recorded message. “The workplace is no place for bullying or intimidation, sexual harassment, disparagement or mistreatment. Period.”

Hochul also outlined the steps for employees who want to file a complaint about harassment or discrimination that they might have experienced. She said there will be “zero tolerance” for any attempts at retaliation.

The governor said she’s instituting live anti-harassment training, to replace an online program of instruction that was done individually. Cuomo was accused of skipping that requirement and the directing his secretary to complete the online program instead, something the former governor denies.

Hochul said she’s retained an outside law firm, Calcagni Kanefsky, LLP, that will investigate any claims of unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the Executive Chamber.

The governor’s office will also be getting a revamped Human Resources department.

“We will take every complaint of harassment and discrimination seriously,” Hochul said. “We will do our best to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the investigation. And everyone will have the option to file an   anonymous complaint”.

Hochul said since she became governor August 24th, almost 200 executive chamber employees have received ethics training that included the requirements of the state’s Public Officers Law, rules on financial disclosure, and how to comply with the standards set by the state ethics commission.

Cuomo has denied that he did anything wrong, and has apologized if he inadvertently treated anyone unfairly. The former governor, through his attorney, continues to dispute the conclusions of the Attorney General’s report.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.