Legislation signed to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today signed into law two pieces of legislation that work to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The first bill requires timely reporting of sexual harassment and discrimination claims in the county workplace. The second bill requires all newly hired employees to receive the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet on their first day of work.

In an effort to build on these actions, County Executive Bellone also announced that the Administration is in the process of procuring a vendor to provide sexual harassment training to the more than 9,000 county employees. This new initiative will ensure that every county employee will partake in an online training video to better equip them with the tools and resources to prevent sexual harassment occurrences in county government. The county is currently in the process of selecting a vendor through a competitive RFP process.

“Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is wholly unacceptable,” said County Executive Bellone. “My administration is committed to preventing any forms of misconduct by providing our employees more education and resources at their disposal to ensure a safe work environment.

Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez said: “Suffolk County has always been at the forefront of significant legislation.  As elected officials, it is our responsibility to protect and safeguard our constituency. I’m proud to have sponsored this important piece of legislation which deals with the protection of both men and women in the workforce. As a woman, I can attest to the dangers of being harassed in the place of employment. I want to make sure future generations of men and women are able to develop professionally in an environment free of harassment particularly working for Suffolk County.

It is also my hope that the private sector will take note of these changes and enact corresponding policies for people working in other industries. I would like to thank my colleagues at the legislature for supporting me on such measures and to the County Executive for signing them into law.  It is my hope Suffolk County will become a stronger and safer place where individuals can work without the fear of speaking up. Today is the day we end this cycle of abuse and silence.

Suffolk County Legislator Lindsay said: “I am proud to co-sponsor legislation that will give new employees an opportunity to be made aware of their rights in the workplace,” said Legislator Bill Lindsay.  “We must set an example within the Suffolk County Legislature, that we have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and discrimination. In addition to the ‘Know Your Rights’ information being distributed to our employees, it is also important that we are educated as a legislature on past and future instances of sexual harassment and discrimination in our workplace. Moving forward, this new policy will require statistics to be reported to the legislature.  This will allow meaningful policy changes to be implemented in order to ensure a safe work environment for all of our employees.”

Suffolk County Legislator Hahn said: “No worker should ever have to trade dignity for a paycheck,” said Legislator Kara Hahn who is a co-sponsor of each bill. “While we have always strived to ensure Suffolk County government was a safe and inclusive environment for our workforce and the general public, today’s action will confirm that every employee knows his and her rights and responsibilities toward that purpose.”

Dan Levler, President of Suffolk Association of Municipal Employees, said: “I applaud County Executive Bellone for ensuring that our hardworking members are provided the same level of training and protections as anyone else when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.  There can be zero tolerance for this type of conduct and we look forward to working with the county to implement these measures in the weeks ahead.”

The County Executive was joined by Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez, the sponsor of the two bills, along with Legislators William Lindsay and Kara Hahn for a bill signing ceremony at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Due to recent sexual harassment accusations sweeping a number of industries across the country, there has become a greater awareness and necessity for employers to take measures to prevent any future occurrences.

The first bill signed into law requires any new employees to receive their “Know Your Rights” pamphlet on their first day of employment. The pamphlet details important information regarding Suffolk County policy, employee rights, and procedures on reporting inappropriate workplace behavior. Currently, employees receive their “Know Your Rights” pamphlet at a later date at their orientation.

The second bill ensures that the Suffolk County Legislature will be provided annual statistics on the number, type, and disposition of employee disciplinary proceedings involving sexual harassment or discrimination, including any settlement amounts and source of funding. The information will be categorized by County Department and Division within each department, with annual statistics summarizing sexual harassment and discrimination claims filed against the county in court or before administrative bodies. The information will also include settlements of any pre- or post-litigation claims, with information on the status and disposition of each claim.

These measures build upon previous actions taken to safeguard employees in the workplace.  Last December, County Executive Bellone signed legislation into place that requires County elected officials, department heads, and their chief deputies receive sexual harassment training every two years through the Suffolk County Office of Labor Relations. The training will provide county officials and department leaders with the necessary tools to identify potential issues and address sexual harassment in an expeditious and appropriate manner.  Although not required by law, the Administration has included the Office of Labor Relations investigative staff to partake in a training class tailored towards the identification aspects of workplace sexual harassment.

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