Sexual Harassment

Andrew Cuomo found to have subjected 13 women to ‘sexually hostile work environment’

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
January 26, 2024 at 19:17
New York governor Andrew Cuomo in March 2021. Photograph: Seth Wenig/Pool via Getty Images
New York governor Andrew Cuomo in March 2021. Photograph: Seth Wenig/Pool via Getty Images

US DoJ reaches agreement with New York state executive chamber over workplace conduct of former governor, 66, who quit in 2021

The former New York governor Andrew Cuomo subjected at least 13 female government employees “to a sexually hostile work environment” and retaliated against four who complained, a formal agreement between the state executive chamber and the US justice department said.

“Governor Cuomo repeatedly subjected these female employees to unwelcome, non-consensual sexual contact; ogling; unwelcome sexual comments; gender-based nicknames; comments on their physical appearances; and/or preferential treatment based on their physical appearances,” read the agreement, which was released on Friday.

Cuomo, a Democrat and son of a former governor, Mario Cuomo, rose to national prominence during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and was widely held to hold presidential ambitions.

He denied accusations of sexual misconduct, but Cuomo resigned in August 2021 after the New York attorney general, Letitia James, said she found 11 such claims credible. He was replaced by his lieutenant, Kathy Hochul.

Now 66, Cuomo is fighting civil lawsuits from two accusers and, in the words of the New York Times, “slowly manoeuvring toward re-entering political life”. But, the paper added Friday, such “efforts may be sharply compromised by the justice department findings”.

The investigation by the federal civil rights division and the US attorney for the eastern district of New York opened in August 2021.

The settlement released Friday said Cuomo “subjected at least 13 female employees of New York state, including executive chamber employees, to a sexually hostile work environment”.

The executive chamber was aware of the governor’s conduct but did not “effectively remediate the harassment on a systemic level”.

“When employees attempted to raise concerns about Cuomo’s conduct to his senior staff,” the agreement said, “Cuomo’s staff failed to follow equal employment opportunity policies and procedures to promptly report those allegations to the appropriate investigative body.

“Indeed, the executive chamber’s response was designed only to protect Cuomo from further accusations.”

The investigation “also found that Cuomo’s senior staff were aware of his conduct and retaliated against four of the women he harassed”.

The agreement listed reforms to be implemented and some undertaken under Hochul, beginning with the removal of employees held to have “facilitated Cuomo’s misconduct and/or engaged in unlawful retaliation against women who raised concerns”.

Rita Glavin, a Cuomo lawyer, told the Times: “This is nothing more than a political settlement with no investigation. Governor Cuomo did not sexually harass anyone.”

But Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, said: “Executive chamber employees deserve to work without fear of sexual harassment and harsh reprisal when they oppose that harassment.

“The conduct in the executive chamber under the former governor, the state’s 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.”

Hochul said: “The moment I took office, I knew I needed to root out the culture of harassment that had previously plagued the executive chamber and implement strong policies to promote a safe workplace for all employees, and [I] took immediate action to do so.”

Breon Peace, US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said: “We appreciate the governor’s stated determination to make sure that sexual harassment does not recur at the highest level of New York state government.”

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