Statement from Alessandra Biaggi on Report Revealing New York Spent $6.4m in Sexual Harassment Settlements

(New York) - Alessandra Biaggi, candidate for State Senate in 34th district, today issued the following statement on the report revealing that New York State has spent $6.4 million in sexual harassment settlements, and calling on the State Senate to create a real plan to end sexual harassment in the Capitol:

The Politico story that broke yesterday morning revealed that New York State has paid $6.4M to settle over 1,000 sexual harassment cases over the last six years.

It is unacceptable that so many people - most of them women - have been subjected to a work environment that is rife with unwanted behaviors, while serving the people of New York. When I heard about this report, I thought about not just these 1,000 individuals, but of all the future staffers who could - unless something changes - find themselves in the same situation. We can not let that be the case.

Sexual harassment is not just a violation of personal space and physical and emotional safety - it’s also an economic injustice that contributes to the pay gap. How many women have shied away from a big project, decided not to seek increased responsibilities, or been shut out of a promotion, due to harassment dynamics in the workplace? How many women know that the arc of their careers would be different if not for having to deal with unwanted advances from their colleagues or their bosses?

It’s also unacceptable that the tax payers of New York paid $6.4 million to settle these cases. If you pay taxes in this state, pay attention to what is happening. You’re paying for men in suits to do as they see fit, putting their staff in unwanted situations, and charging you for the bill.

And finally, the Senate leadership - John Flanagan and Jeff Klein, who was himself recently accused of forcibly kissing an ex-staffer - recently failed to effectively update the Senate’s sexual harassment policy, choosing instead to include an ominous warning to those who make harassment complaints.

They missed the opportunity to improve the Senate’s policy by:

  1. Requiring that thorough third-party investigations take place - in a timely manner;

  2. Matching the Assembly’s policy in allowing appeals for 30 days, instead of only 15; and

  3. Mandating that anyone accused of misconduct be required to recuse themselves from any related business until their investigations are concluded.

Those updates would have made sense. Instead, we got a comment intended to further silence and intimidate victims.

What we’re calling for is not complicated. We’re asking for the State Senate to do what they should have done in the first place - modernize their sexual harassment reporting policy with genuine care and empathy, and with women in the room.

Let me be clear, we should not be standing here asking for this - but here we are.

We will look forward to seeing what Jeff Klein and John Flanagan report back with - hopefully it is something that is worthy of the State of New York.