New York City business owners unload over baffling new sexual harassment laws: ‘It’s a slippery slope’

Business owners in New York have been unloading on state officials over shocking new workplace sexual harassment rules that they claim do not even address the issues.

“I was shocked to hear about these new laws,” a New York City business owner told The New York Post. “I’m sure training is good, but I hope Albany doesn’t start legislating me on how to run my business,” he added. “It’s a slippery slope.”

(Image: screenshot New York State Legislature)

The latest city and state campaigns aimed at combating workplace sexual harassment have frustrated employers who have until October to train all of their employees and make the new policies known in their businesses.

“We’re not in disagreement with the laws — but the lack of adequate notification to employers, particularly to small business owners, is frustrating,” Greg Biryla, New York state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Post.

“We’re also concerned about a missed opportunity to craft better policies that would have suited a wider variety of employees, rather than having this one-size-fits-all approach,” he added.

Researchers have noted that the new rules may not even be effective in constraining the abuse, with a study by one New York City firm finding that the new laws will make reporting sexual harassment only make women feel “worse.”

“These do not solve the fundamental problem,” Mona Patel, CEO at Motivate Design, said. “You have to first articulate the problem, what exactly is sexual harassment, and also foster a better work environment, all of which these laws fail to address.”

Elizabeth Clemants, who mediates gender workplace issues at a New York City training firm, also does not see the positive benefits the new rules will have on workplace harassment.

“I find we are telling people about the laws for the first time because they didn’t even know about them,” she said, according to The Post.

Some criticized the way the new laws were being implemented.

“The annual requirement and 2019 deadlines for compliance can be challenging for large enterprise employers,” law expert at Epstein Becker Green, Ian Carleton Schaefer, said while calling the laws themselves as “laudable.”

New York State lawmakers spent hours listening to testimony from victims of sexual harassment in the workplace in a joint hearing last week as Democratic state Sen. Jessica Ramos, who is also fighting to decriminalize prostitution in New York,  sponsored the bill earlier this month.

Ramos, who tweeted last week that she hoped everyone enjoyed President’s Day “except for Donald Trump,” introduced the legislation which requires “employers to provide employees notice of their sexual harassment prevention policy and sexual harassment prevention training program in writing in English and in employees’ primary languages; requires the commissioner of labor to create dual-language templates of model sexual harassment prevention policies and training programs.”

While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not respond to a request for comment from The Post, a spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred the publication to the Democrat’s previous remarks.

“We have the most aggressive anti-sexual harassment laws in the United States,” he had said about New York’s sexual harassment laws.

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Frieda Powers

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