New York’s New Sexual Harassment Training Requirement: A Prospective From New York’s Top Divorce Lawyer
In 2017 sexual harassment by powerful men was in the center of the news. In fact, the “#MeToo” movement came along. Conventional wisdom thought that bringing the issue of sexual harassment to light; educating and punishing would have a deterrent effect on those who were actually engaging in the harassment. What followed was an interesting set of realities: 1) people who admit that they know and understand what conduct constitutes sexual harassment and they act appropriately; and 2) those who vociferously deny that they were aware that their conduct constitutes sexual harassment after they were accused.
Clearly if the people who are engaging in sexual harassment did not know what it actually is, they should be taught. If everyone knows and understands sexual harassment, then there should be a decline in sexual harassment in the workplace. This sounds like common sense. It is not. And neither is divorce. As a divorce practitioner I am finely tuned as a “human lie detector”. It is simply too convenient that most everyone that was engaging in sexual harassment (according to the data of major media at the time) were saying that they did not understand that what they did … constituted harassment. That is just not true in most cases. As a result of this, there are now laws in New York where every single employee now has to take a mandated sexual harassment course by October 9, 2019.
It incredible that the vast majority of people who were accused of sexual harassment, simply deny knowledge of what type of behavior constitutes sexual harassment. As a divorce lawyer I have seen adulterers; and child abusers use this exact compartmentalized version of the truth. They never believe their actions truly “constitute” the harm they are doing. Someone who engages in sexual harassment will make light of their own conduct and deny that they understand that what they are doing is wrong. This goes for adulterers and child abusers. It is almost universal that when faced with breaking a marriage vow, people compartmentalize the behavior that follows. If sexual harassment resulted in every employee having to take a sexual harassment course, that is only because the people that are doing the harassing conveniently stated they did not understand that their conduct was harassment. This has costs millions of man hours in the State of New York. Everyone seems to know someone who is inappropriate at work. New York State is not everybody’s parent and although they are trying to protect everyone, they cannot protect everybody. People who engage in sexual harassment in the workplace now will no longer be able to claim they did not understand. In fact, every employee in New York State has been trained under the new law.
New York State cannot teach everyone how to act and reacting to the 2017 headlines by creating new laws. That is an ill-conceived idea. Time will tell however I believe there will be no reduction of sexual harassment victims as a result of the education.
In divorces and in life honesty has a true value. Being less than honest has forced millions of New Yorkers to now have to watch sexual harassment training videos. This is as a result of less than honest perpetrators who stated, “I did not know my conduct constituted harassment”. I cannot believe anyone actually listened to them. As the owner of Long Island’s largest divorce law firm, I recognize “justification” and when people lie to cover their poor behavior. I would not have reacted as New York State did. Sometimes strict enforcement of claims is more effective than educating the masses. As a top divorce attorney, I value and believe in the strict enforcement of laws and punishment of bad behavior.