Sexual Harassment Laws Strengthened By Cuomo May Lead To His Undoing


Governor Andrew Cuomo, after repeatedly denying a collection of sexual misconduct allegations in opposition to him, determined to vary course this week. Talking by telephone to reporters on Wednesday, the governor stated he would now not reply questions on whether or not he had stated, executed, or behaved inappropriately whereas dueling investigations by the State Legal professional Normal’s workplace and the New York State Meeting are underway.

“Let the legal professionals do their job and allow them to conduct the evaluate after which we are able to discuss it when now we have information established,” Cuomo stated.

Irrespective of how lengthy the investigations could take, Cuomo faces a dangerous state of affairs made worse by the sexual harassment legal guidelines he championed and signed two years in the past. They’re among the many strongest within the nation and now serve to strengthen the hand of the complainants who’ve come ahead in opposition to him.

“Because of the governor, the New York State sexual harassment legal guidelines are nice,” stated lawyer Marjorie Mesidor, who focuses on employment legislation and sexual harassment claims as a accomplice at Phillips and Associates. “They’re nice for plaintiffs. They’re nice for workers who’re bringing forth complaints of sexual harassment.”

Previous to the adjustments in 2019, New York legal guidelines governing sexual harassment mirrored the stricter federal legislation that required plaintiffs to point out that the accused created a hostile work atmosphere by means of conduct that was “extreme and pervasive.”

“There have been instances the place the place workers’ breasts had been touched, however [only] a single time they usually weren’t thought of sexual harassment,” Mesidor stated, referring to plaintiffs she represented earlier than the legislation modified.

The “extreme and pervasive” threshold was faraway from the legislation, and it was additional expanded to say a complainant doesn’t have to file a proper grievance for an individual to be accountable for harassment.

Below the phrases set by the present state legislation, if the AG’s report finds Cuomo in violation, he might face civil motion and fines. Up to now, there was one allegation referred to the Albany Police Division that might result in a felony cost.

However the greatest affect of a damning report can be a devastating political fall from grace, and doable ouster from workplace.

“If these items are substantiated, the blowback from the truth that you may have an individual within the public belief who violated that, it cannot be overstated,” stated Mesidor. “If he did this, how can we belief this man?” she added.

The investigation is within the palms of the legal professionals now. After going back-and-forth with Cuomo’s workplace, the State Legal professional Normal’s workplace employed two legal professionals in personal observe: Joon Kim, the previous Performing U.S. Legal professional within the Southern District, and Anne Clark, an employment lawyer whose expertise consists of prosecuting sexual harassment claims. The State Meeting, which approved its personal investigation as a possible lead as much as an impeachment, employed the white-shoe legislation agency of Davis Polk, and it’s unclear how that investigation will unfold. Neither staff commented on the standing of their investigations.

READ MORE: How Would An Impeachment Work In New York?

Investigators usually interview the complainants, the accused, and any witnesses whereas additionally reviewing any proof to help claims made by both facet. The order these interviews are performed, Mesidor stated, can affect the narrative that investigators develop and should tilt an investigation in favor of 1 facet or the opposite. In the end, the credibility of the complainants and the accuser performs a serious function within the final result, she stated.

“Until they’ve a recording, or video or {photograph} or one thing outdoors of themselves, that undeniably establishes that what they stated occurred, occurred, it actually goes to be left to a problem of credibility,” Mesidor stated.

There may be circumstantial proof that may assist bolster a person’s declare. Mesidor stated she usually asks a consumer what they did proper after an alleged incident of sexual harassment befell. If they are saying, for instance, they texted their finest pal and advised them about it, she asks for the texts.

“These are contemporaneous texts,” Mesidor stated, that might assist show one thing truly occurred. “Does that make it ironclad? No, nevertheless it helps lots,” she added.

In her Medium submit and within the current New Yorker article, Lindsay Boylan, one of many girls who has accused Governor Cuomo of sexual harassment, recounted contemporaneous calls she made to her husband, texts to her mom, and even emails from different senior workers within the Cuomo administration that could possibly be reviewed by investigators.

Boylan, who first went public in tweets in December 2020, could have one other case in opposition to the governor and his employees associated to their leak of her personnel data, one thing that the governor’s counsel Beth Garvey has defended.

That, specialists say, exposes Cuomo to an entire different set of liabilities.

“That is what somebody in my area would usually take a look at as ‘actionable retaliation’,” stated Kevin Mintzer, an employment legislation lawyer who represented two girls, Chloe Rivera and Tori Burhans Kelly, of their sexual harassment lawsuit in opposition to former Assemblymember Vito Lopez and former Meeting Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Mintzer stated underneath state and federal legislation, talking up about sexual harassment, even to the press, is meant to be protected exercise. He described the discharge of Boylan’s confidential personnel recordsdata as a transparent instance of retaliation as a result of it was executed after she spoke up in an effort to discredit and intimidate her, whereas additionally dissuading others from coming ahead.

Similtaneously the AG and Meeting are conducting their investigations, the Instances Union reported that the chief chamber is conducting its personal investigation into allegations in opposition to Cuomo.

The governor has additionally employed two attorneys from the agency Arnold & Porter in line with the Wall Road Journal: Paul Fishman, a former U.S. Legal professional in New Jersey, and Mitra Hormozi, who labored with the governor when he was State Legal professional Normal. The attorneys are reportedly obtainable to accompany employees from the governor’s workplace throughout interviews for both of the investigations. That might imply that attorneys employed on behalf of the chief chamber can be sitting in on the testimony of people that work there and should have witnessed abuse.

In a press release, the Sexual Harassment Working Group, a gaggle of former legislative staffers who’ve pushed for adjustments within the legislation governing sexual harassment and the office tradition in Albany, referred to as {that a} type of “witness tampering.”

“It might simply perform as a screening of what the staffers may say, thus unfairly offering Cuomo and his enablers inside information to craft their very own protection and additional intimidate witnesses,” the SHWG stated in a press release. “Worse but, staffers could moderately concern that they can’t be totally trustworthy underneath such monitoring by the attorneys chosen by, and with an obligation to, their employer,” they added.

A spokesperson for Cuomo didn’t reply to a request for remark.

READ MORE: A Timeline of Cuomo’s Colliding Scandals

Erica Vladimer, one of many co-founders of the SHWG, stated it’s been onerous watching the ladies coming ahead now undergo a course of that she is aware of all too nicely. In January 2018, she made sexual harassment allegations in opposition to former Senator Jeff Klein, chair of the Unbiased Democratic Convention, a gaggle of Democrats that shared energy with the Republicans to offer them majority management.

She spent hours speaking with investigators — “Quite a lot of the instances I used to be not solely repeating myself and speaking about what I skilled, but in addition feeling like I needed to defend myself,” Vladimir advised Gothamist/WNYC. “It really felt like I used to be a witness to my very own trauma.”

Three years later, Vladimer continues to be caught in authorized proceedings that stem from her allegations “It is exhausting,” she stated.

READ MORE: “He Wouldn’t Have Completed That if I Was Man,” Why Ana Liss Spoke Out

Up to now, Charlotte Bennett, Ana Liss and Lindsay Boylan have all been interviewed by attorneys employed to conduct the AG’s investigation. In a press release Thursday, Liss stated she met with investigators for 2 hours over Zoom. She stated she offered particulars of her expertise working within the government chamber from 2013 to 2015 and the, “unsolicited consideration paid to me by the governor and the sexually hostile work atmosphere perpetuated by him and senior employees.”

“Throughout my time within the Government Chamber, it was a poisonous, verbally abusive, retaliatory office, particularly for younger girls like myself,” Liss stated. “I sit up for continued cooperation with this effort, and I help others who could want to come ahead.”

Extra reporting from Gwynne Hogan