The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday announced an agreement with the state of New York to settle claims that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo engaged in a pattern or practice of sexual harassment and retaliation.
According to the DOJ’s investigation, the executive chamber under Cuomo subjected female employees to a sexually hostile work environment; tolerated that environment and failed to correct the problem on an agency-wide basis; and retaliated against employees who spoke out about the harassment.
Cuomo was forced to resign in 2021 after a report from Attorney General Letitia James was released alleging his harassment and in some cases groping of current and former state employees.
The DOJ began its investigation in 2021, and concluded Cuomo subjected at least 13 state employees to a sexually hostile work environment. The agency said that since Cuomo left office, the executive chamber has implemented changes to prevent similar misconduct. The agreement memorializes these efforts, and outlines additional steps to be taken.
The changes include expanding the human resources department; implementing training and anti-retaliation programs; creating new policies and procedures for the reporting, investigation and resolution of complaints involving high-level executive chamber employees, including the governor; and creating mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of reforms.
“The conduct in the Executive Chamber under the former governor, the states most powerful elected official, was especially egregious because of the stark power differential involved and the victims lack of avenues to report and redress harassment, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
With this settlement agreement, the Executive Chamber under Governor Hochul is undertaking additional actions that will address system failures of the past while helping prevent the recurrence of systemic sexual harassment and retaliation in the future, Clarke said.
“We appreciate the Governors stated determination to make sure that sexual harassment does not recur at the highest level of New York State government,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “We share that goal and enter into this agreement to advance our common goal of creating clear, comprehensive and, most importantly, enduring policies preventing sexual harassment in the Executive Chamber.”
TMX contributed to this article.