New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration is hard at work to assure "equality for women," according to an ad on Twitter. In fact, his office has "the strongest sexual assault policy in the nation."
Some noted that the message was posted at an unfortunate time.
James "Jay" Kiyonaga, second-in-command at the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, was fired by Cuomo's office Wednesday following sexual misconduct complaints. Patricia Gunning, a former attorney at the state's Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, who used to be deputy director of OPWDD, was one of several female staffers to accuse Kyonaga of sexually harassing her. When nothing was done, she filed a discrimination complaint accusing Cuomo's administration of covering it up. It was a "complete failure of the governor's office and the state to deal with this serial sexual harasser and discriminator," she claims.
"By September 2017, Mr. Kiyonaga's 15 years in state employ had a consistent pattern," according to the report. "He fostered a boys' club atmosphere in the agencies where he worked. He favored women he found attractive. He retaliated against women who complained."
Kiyonaga's firing (better late than never) comes a couple weeks after we learned of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman history of domestic abuse. Ronan Farrow, whose reporting on Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault allegations earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, helped break the Schneiderman scandal for The New Yorker. His female sources described how Schneiderman had physically abused them. The AG denied the allegations, defending his encounters with the women as sexual "role play," but complied with Gov. Cuomo when he asked him to resign.
The New York governor's official website includes a section on how the office plans to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Hopefully it is being enforced.
Combat Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: The Budget includes nation-leading, multi-pronged legislation to combat sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Require all state contractors to submit an affirmation that they have a sexual harassment policy and that they have trained all of their employees.
- Prohibit employers from using a mandatory arbitration provision in an employment contract in relation to sexual harassment.
- Require officers and employees of the state or of any public entity to reimburse the state for any state or public payment made upon a judgement of intentional wrongdoing related to sexual harassment.
- Ensure that nondisclosure agreements can only be used when the condition of confidentiality is the explicit preference of the victim
- Establish a model sexual harassment policy, in consultation with the Department of Labor and Division of Human Rights, for employers to adopt or use to establish a similar policy that meets or exceeds the minimum standards of the model policy
- Amend the law to protect contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants or others providing services in the workplace from sexual harassment in the workplace