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According to results from a Siena College Poll on sexual harassment released in January, “nearly half the women in New York state said they’ve been victims of sexual harassment” and “about 70 percent of respondents agree that sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem.” These eye-opening findings illustrate that the workplace sexual harassment crisis is not waning. Hope for reform remains strong amid recent social and legal changes, signaling a cultural sea change might be on the horizon. First, there is the social media uprising, which began to gain steam in 2017, with the birth of the #MeToo movement, and followed by the establishment of the #TimesUp organization in 2018. These important initiatives are instrumental in driving change, giving victims a voice to call out publicly the inappropriate conduct of harassers in order to help transform the standards and culture in work environments.

On the legal front, 10 states enacted or attempted to pass anti-sexual harassment legislation in 2018, as the sexual harassment social media campaigns took off. New York’s regulations are by far the most stringent, requiring all city and state employers to adopt a written sexual harassment prevention policy and institute annual anti-harassment training for all employees. As the first state to pass such comprehensive anti-sexual harassment legislation, all eyes will likely be on the impact of these new laws on employers, in-house and outside counsel, and the role they play in improving the work environment for employees.

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