New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Tuesday that he is resigning his decade-long post comes a week after the state attorney general’s office released a 165-page report on Aug. 3 that Cuomo had sexually harassed staff members and other state employees.
The toxic culture of the executive chamber allowed Cuomo’s behavior to remain unchecked, according to the report, which noted the women Cuomo verbally and physical harassed included a female state trooper on his protective detail.
The culture in the governor’s office was “one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments,” the report said. This ”contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist. That culture also influenced the improper and inadequate ways in which the executive chamber has responded to allegations of harassment.”
The report was the latest involving sexual harassment allegations against the governor. In March,
Alyssa McGrath, then-aide to Cuomo, accused him of sexual harassment.
Cuomo, who has
denied allegations of sexual harassment, said
in his Aug. 10 announcement that “government really needs to function today, government needs to perform, it is a matter of life and death … And wasting energy on distractions is the last thing state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that.”
Under the circumstances, he said, “the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing.”
Speaking up against a toxic workplace culture can be difficult, as heard in countless #MeToo stories that ultimately prompted calls for workplace overhauls, including reviews and revisions of workplace policies, online harassment hotlines that took complaints directly to boards and CEOs, changes in the law, and bans on company nondisclosure agreements.
SHRM Online collected the following resources and news stories on sexual harassment in the workplace:
Cuomo’s ‘Toxic’ Workplace Normalized ‘Flirtatious Behavior:’ AG Probe
The Executive Chamber was “rife with fear and intimidation” and full of “bullying behavior” and “unflinching loyalty” to Cuomo and his senior staff was “highly valued,” investigators in the New York State attorney general’s office found.
“Witnesses reported that the Executive Chamber under Governor Cuomo cultivated an environment that was highly protective of the governor,” including “an intense focus on secrecy,” the report states.
(New York Post)
Quirky NY Law Prevented AG James from Charging Cuomo
When New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Aug. 3 that an independent probe found that Cuomo sexually harassed almost a dozen women, the state’s top law enforcement officer never had the option of filing criminal charges against him.
Under New York’s executive law, the attorney general can’t open criminal investigations or bring charges without a green light from the governor or one of his department heads. James never got such approval. The law is so unusual that James needed a hard-fought referral from Cuomo’s office in March to open her limited civil inquiry, which culminated in the damning report.
It is unlawful to harass a job applicant or an employee because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
(U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Employees
This sample presentation is intended for employees, rather than supervisors or managers. This presentation does not include detailed information on retaliation and employer liability; please see the supervisor version of this presentation for those details. It is designed to be presented by someone who is knowledgeable about recognizing and responding to sexual harassment and the employer’s own policy on sexual harassment. This presentation should be customized to include and match the employer’s own policies and practices.
[Want to learn more? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]