In February 2021—on the heels of reports that New York State may have undercounted COVID-related nursing home deaths by thousands—the public learned of allegations by multiple female staffers that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo subjected to them to sexual harassment. This resulted in a probe led by Attorney General Letitia James, which involved 179 interviews and more than 74,000 pieces of evidence.
On August 3, 2021, James released a sweeping, 165-page report confirming that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 current and former New York State employees by “engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching, and making numerous offensive comments of a sexual suggestive nature that created a hostile work environment for women.” Per James, the investigation “revealed a deeply disturbing yet clear picture: Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former State employees” in violation of State and federal law. Cuomo’s misconduct included “unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and making inappropriate comments.”
As Joon Kim, one of the lead investigators on James’s team, elaborated: “Our investigation has also found that the Executive Chamber responded to allegations of sexual harassment in ways that violated [its] own internal policies and also constituted unlawful retaliation with respect to one of the complainants. Based on our investigation, we concluded that the Executive Chamber[’s] workplace culture—rife with bullying, fear and intimidation—on the one hand, while normalizing frequent flirtations and gender-based comments by the Governor on the other, created the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment and retaliation to occur and to persist.”
Within minutes of the report’s publication, calls for Cuomo’s impeachment were revived and began to intensify, though whether Cuomo is actually impeached remains to be seen. Regardless, James’s report serves as a stark reminder that even the most powerful individuals may be held accountable for sexual harassment and retaliation—both of which are prohibited not only under federal law, but also under the anti-discrimination laws of New York State and City, which are among the most robust in the country.
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About Alex Hartzband
Alex Hartzband's practice is focused on employment litigation. Alex is a senior associate in the firm's New York office.
Senior Associate at Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP
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