The Business Council of New York State, the state’s leading statewide business and industry association, opposes this legislation that would amend the State Finance Law to mandate that vendors doing business with New York State, or those bidding on state contracts, provide written proof of compliance with sexual harassment training and a detailed history of how past cases, including court cases and settlements, have been handled by vendors.
Under this proposal, thousands of vendors doing business with New York State and those submitting bids would be required to remit to the contracting agency a report on occurrences of sexual harassment of its employees. This new law would require bidders to disclose adverse judgements or rulings the preceding year; whether equitable relief had been ordered; the number of settlements, stipulations, decrees, etc.; and settlements entered into by a “corporate executive” without regard to where the behavior occurred.
This approach is flawed for a number of reasons. First, rather than a simple attestation by bidders that they are conducting sexual harassment training and have a written policy on it (something currently required under the law), a new report must be developed and filed. Second, this new report seems to imply that a company must report on ALL of its employees, not just New York State employees. Third, this report requires a myriad of information, some of which may have nothing to do with the employer or the place of employment. This new report will then be used to create a master report by the State Comptroller and Division of Human Rights to be delivered to state lawmakers.
However, these categories of reportable incidents fail to properly grasp the very nature of the issues they are attempting to categorize. For example, it is unclear whether a mere counseling of an employee would count as a reportable offense to be listed. How would an employer deal with a complaint that was filed, but then withdrawn? With the narrowing of standards from the previously understood “severe or pervasive”, companies could now be held responsible to list each and every possible case on yearly reports. We question the benefit to the contracting agency of information on monetary settlement figures mandated by this bill. Likewise, we questions whether a settlement entered into by a company in one department somehow factors into the performance of totally unrelated departments producing a good sold to an unrelated third party.
Further, the new law goes into areas over which companies have no control and for which they may have no knowledge, the “total number of settlements entered into during the previous year that relate to any alleged act of sexual harassment committed by a corporate executive without regard to whether that behavior occurred in the work place of the bidder.” It is counterintuitive to hold a party responsible for the actions of others that have nothing to do with its operations.
This legislation would require a significant amount of time and effort to compile information that is extraneous to the delivery of goods and services, and imposes additional requirements on state agencies to collect, process and compile yet another state report. Given the recently enacted expansion of the state’s anti-sexual harassment laws, and new policy, training and response obligations imposed on all New York State employers, we question the need for this additional layer of reporting.
For the above reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation.