STAFF CONTACT :
The Business Council of New York State, whose membership includes over 4,000 member firms as well as hundreds of chambers of commerce and professional trade associations, has reviewed the above mentioned legislation and opposes its enactment.
This legislation would amend New York State's Labor Law by requiring new studies, policies and workplace training whether a need exists or not.
There is no question that violence follows employees to, and occurs in, the workplace and that vigilance and teamwork on the part of employers, employees and their collective bargaining agents is necessary to address this issue. However, imposition of this type of uniform mandate, without regard for the need, size, location or type of business, is the last step toward a solution, not the first step. The Business Council would prefer to see efforts toward a cooperative solution before a mandate such as this is considered.
The Business Council opposes this legislation for the following reasons:
- In 1997, Governor Pataki signed the Domestic Violence Employee Awareness and Assistance bill into law, Chapter 368, which authorized the Commissioner of Labor to assist the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence in creating, disseminating and promoting a model policy to businesses in New York State. This law called for a task force to conduct hearings and prepare a model policy. The Business Council and other individual employers participated in this voluntary effort and earlier this year, the model policy was announced and released by the Governor's office. Efforts to inform and educate employers through chambers of commerce and other professional organizations have begun. In addition, a volunteer effort to inform employers and the public of issues involving domestic violence in the workplace has been undertaken by the "Corporate Citizen Initiative," a project of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Cornell University and other business and civic groups. The Business Council believes that the results of these voluntary efforts should proceed and the results evaluated before any new mandated actions are considered.
- A program such as this that requires the vast majority of violence-free workplaces to spend time and funds on unneeded studies, analysis and training, diverts valuable resources from other uses.
- In workplaces where employees are represented by a collective bargaining agent, human resource professionals or business owners can work closely with bargaining agents and employees to evaluate and act upon specific situations that affect their worksite(s). If little or no violence issues exist, they are able to direct their energies to more mutually beneficial issues.
- Employers already generally restrict access to the workplace to only employees or to those non-employees who have a bona fide business purpose for being on the premises.
In addition to the above objections, The Business Council has additional concerns about provisions in the bill including, when a person may request an inspection by the Commissioner, the authority of the Commissioner to go beyond the initial reason for the inspection, the directive for the Commissioner to adopt regulations involving the inspection of locker areas, personal property and other privacy issues, and the integration of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), an act which employers are already subject to, into this proposed legislation.
For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation and respectfully urges the Assembly Labor Committee not to report A.6853.