NYC Council makes sexual harassment policies a priority

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For decades New York City has been on the vanguard of a variety of social issues, and as the #MeToo movement continues to sweep the nation, city leaders agree improved sexual harassment policies and protections should be a priority.

"We owe these survivors action because although we have strong sexual harassment protections on the book we know that reality has not caught up with the law," stated NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Just what falls under the scope and definition of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace has been a blurred line for too long, according to members of the Committee on Women and Civil & Human Rights who convened on the steps of City Hall Wednesday.

"We are currently investigating 148 cases of sexual harassment in New York City and we are working harder than ever to educate every New Yorker so that people know their rights in the work place and that employers know their obligations," noted Carmelyn Malalis, Commissioner for the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

Joining together with local advocacy groups, council members announced plans for a new legislative package that would not only track workplace harassment but require more intense sexual harassment training and education.

The new laws, which will cover both the public and private sector, will also provide additional protections for victims who come forward and make formal reports.

"We are taking away the whole I didn't know's, or it had always been that way, or who knew this was everybody across the nation and the world has been put on notice sexual harassment is over," said Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo.

City leaders say these proposed laws are just a starting point and they will be looking to the public for additional input and as always accountability.

"It's a trend. When one person comes forward and you see that someone is listening, and someone is taking action, somebody is doing something... you will start to feel like I can talk about this too," said Alyssa Martinez with the advocacy group Girl Be Heard.

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