For months, members of the Sexual Harassment Working Group have been pushing for hearings to address sexual harassment in state government and in Albany specifically.

The state Senate and Assembly on Friday held their second joint hearing this year, with a goal of passing legislation in the next month.

"So the big change that we are looking at this year is ending the 'severe or pervasive' standard for sexual harassment," Rita Pasarell of the Sexual Harassment Working Group said outside the hearing. "This is what New York state follows. And it allows for a lot of worker abuse, including physical touching."

The "severe or pervasive" standard means that harassment must be consistent and extreme in order to meet the state's threshold of what constitutes a violation.

The hearing Friday revealed that while New York City has eliminated that high standard, the state still has not.

"It was universally found that there is a lack of reliable policy and standard reporting structures that address victims in trauma informed manner," Democratic State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi of the Bronx said at the hearing. "Critical gaps and obstructions impede timely and complete reporting of harassing behavior."

In addition, harassment complaints in state government are up more than 60 percent, prompting this line of questioning from Democratic State Sen. John Liu of Queens:

"The testimony that the state is giving here, it's all about how proud you are, how happy you are about the work that you do, how efficient you do things," Liu said. "It's as if there are no problems whatsoever."




"I also want to respond to the assertion that we think everything is fine and dandy. We don't. We enforce the oldest human rights law in the country and we aggressively enforce it. But we know that discrimination exists," Gina Martinez of the New York State Division of Human Rights said at the hearing.

There is a package of 10 bills currently in Albany that address sexual harassment. But advocates say the most important of those address that "severe or pervasive" standard. Four weeks remain in the legislative session to get them done.