Latest News

Greatest Generation: He waited, surrounded by smoke, for an attack that never came

State Senate’s new harassment rules include warning to false accusers


With the nation in the midst of a profound national reckoning over sexual harassment in the workplace, the New York state Senate has revamped its decade-old policy on the topic — but some of the changes are not exactly what one might expect. 

To be sure, the definition of harassment was expanded, more protected classes were included, and disciplinary warnings were included if supervisors failed to report harassing behavior. 

But the new four-page policy, distributed to members of the Senate and staff on Monday and obtained by The New York Times, also contains a new sentence stating that “reporting a false complaint is a serious act,” and then — as it did before — warned that such false accusations or false statements to investigators can result in disciplinary actions or firing. 

The new policy also limits the amount of time that an employee — or someone who was accused — has to appeal to Senate lawyers to 15 days after any conclusion is drawn. “No appeal will be entertained after,” the policy reads. 

Those particular changes struck Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the Senate Democratic Conference, and the only female leader in either chamber of the Legislature, as tone deaf amid the clamor of the #MeToo movement. 

“To emphasize the punishment for filing a false report while not emphasizing the seriousness of sexual harassment is exactly the type of intimidation that has silenced so many through the years, and encourages perpetrators to attack accusers,” Stewart-Cousins, from Westchester County, said in a statement, adding that she was not consulted about the new policy. She called it “proof the Senate leadership is not serious about combating sexual harassment.” 

The new policy, last updated in 2007, comes weeks after a prominent member of the chamber, Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, was accused by a former aide of unwanted sexual advances. 

Klein, who leads the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, has denied the accusations — accusing the former staffer of drinking and lying about the episode. 

The Republican leader of the chamber, Sen. John J. Flanagan of Long Island, has said that Klein will not be investigated by the Senate. Flanagan explained his decision by saying that Klein’s accuser, Erica Vladimer, who left Klein’s staff shortly after she alleged the senator forcibly kissed her outside an Albany bar in 2015, had not ever made a formal complaint. 

Flanagan works with Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference and another Democratic senator, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, to maintain control of the Senate, even though Democrats hold a slight numerical edge in the 63-seat chamber. 

Vladimer said she was “once again disappointed by the failure of those in power to step up.” 

“I look forward to the day when the old boys’ club of dysfunction and protection of power is a thing of the past,” she said. “But today, I feel sick.” 

Republicans in the Senate said the review of the sexual harassment policy began before the Klein scandal broke and said the new policy was “once again making clear that retaliation will not be tolerated.” 

“We take this issue very seriously, and have endeavored to make sure each and every employee of the New York state Senate is provided with a safe work environment free from harassment and discrimination,” said Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman for Flanagan. “The provision that is being referenced by Sen. Stewart-Cousins existed previously and has not been changed in any meaningful way. It is and always has been wrong to make a false complaint.” 

The new policy, sent by Francis W. Patience, the secretary of the Senate, also expanded the Senate harassment policy to include provisions to prevent discrimination, adding “creed,” “color,” “military status,” “familial status,” “predisposing genetic characteristics” and “domestic violence victim status,” to categories of protected from bias by Senate employees. 

The policy also includes a stipulation threatening disciplinary action if supervisors fail to report harassing behavior and expressly articulated that harassment “is gender neutral and may involve individuals of the same or different gender.” It also offered examples of behavior that can be considered harassment, including “remarks or negative stereotypes that are derogatory and/or demeaning to an individual’s protected class.” 

“The claim that the alleged conduct ‘meant no harm’ or was ‘just a joke’ is not an excuse,” the policy reads.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

VA may expand private health care choices for veterans
VA may expand private health care choices for veterans

Veterans will have expanded private health care options under legislation passed by Congress, but some critics contend it could lead to more privatization of VA services. The measure was part of a sweeping $51 billion VA bill that would institute reforms within the federal agency. The Senate passed the measure in 92-5 vote this week, which continued...
Trump says N. Korea summit may be back on; Ohio lawmakers react
Trump says N. Korea summit may be back on; Ohio lawmakers react

President Donald Trump on Friday warmly welcomed North Korea’s promising response to his abrupt withdrawal from the potentially historic Singapore summit and said “we’re talking to them now” about putting it back on track. “Everybody plays games,” said Trump, who often boasts about his own negotiating tactics and...
Facebook and Twitter plan new ways to regulate political ads
Facebook and Twitter plan new ways to regulate political ads

Facebook and Twitter announced plans Thursday to increase transparency of political campaign ads, changes aimed at preventing foreign manipulation of the coming midterm elections.  Facebook said it would begin including a “paid for” label on the top of any political ads in the United States. Clicking on the label will take people to...
NRA host calls for legislation to limit reporting on mass shooters. Then he says he didn’t mean it.
NRA host calls for legislation to limit reporting on mass shooters. Then he says he didn’t mean it.

In the days after a shooter killed 10 people at a Texas high school, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch joined a chorus of conservatives in spotlighting a subject to blame that didn't involve guns.  "The media has got to stop creating more of these monsters by oversaturation," Loesch said on the NRA's television station...
GOP immigration rebels push ahead despite Trump veto pledge
GOP immigration rebels push ahead despite Trump veto pledge

House advocates for moderate immigration policies stood at the cusp of forcing votes on bills that would give young undocumented immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship — even as President Trump threatened to veto any legislation that did not hew to his hard-line views.  Backers of a rare procedural maneuver that would spark an immigration...
More Stories