Joint legislative hearing in Albany looks at sexual harassment law

February 13, 2019 06:07 PM

ALBANY – For the first time in decades, New York lawmakers are addressing the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Victims say changes need to be made -- and that was the topic of a rare hearing in Albany on Wednesday.

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For many decades, victims of sexual harassment in the workplace have been reluctant, even fearful, to talk about what happened to them. As of Wednesday, the discussion has entered the public arena.

The purpose of this joint legislative session was to examine current law and current policy surrounding sexual harassment.

Those involved realize it's no small matter reaching this point.

"I think it's very significant. I don't know if you sense the somberness, the seriousness there [Wednesday] morning. It's rather powerful," said Democratic Assem. Pat Fahy of Albany.

Especially powerful and poignant when you consider it's been more than 25 years since there have been legislative hearings on the issue -- and reported incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace have been increasing exponentially during that time span.

"The problem seems so gigantic that beginning to change it seems insurmountable and you need to listen to workers to do that and I think there's been a resistance to that, and I think we're starting to see that change today," said Risa Pasarell, a victim.

She used to work for Assemblyman Vito Lopez. She says he would harass her almost on a daily basis.

Eliyanna Kaiser is another victim. She was once chief of staff for Assemblyman Micah Kellner, but since her harassment ordeal believes there has been cultural change.

"I think people are taking the threats to their political futures very seriously, but I'll believe they're taking the issue really seriously when I see some real engagement with the process that does not just pay lip service to the issue," she said.

One of the many ongoing complaints regarding sexual harassment is that no one ever seems to be taking it seriously. Now, that seems to be changing in New York.


Dan Levy

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