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Sexual harassment claims rock the New York Assembly

When people are elected to act as civil servants, the public expects them to behave in a respectful and honorable way. Unfortunately, however, a major sexual harassment claim involving a New York Assembly member is a reminder of how inappropriate behavior can impact the halls of governance.

An internal ethics investigation found that two female state assembly employees came forward with claims that an assemblyman made unwanted sexual advances toward them. However, the inquiry also determined that legislative leaders failed to refer the sexual harassment claims to the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee. Typically, such claims would be handled by a panel.

Already, the assemblyman facing the sexual harassment stepped down from his post before the legislative body could take internal actions. At this point, there is no word as to whether the staffers who faced on-the-job harassment will pursue additional legal claims against the man or the legislature.

Filing a sexual harassment claim can be complex, especially since the parties involved in the case may not provide similar accounts of events. As such, it's important for employees to present enough evidence to support their claims. In the case of the assembly staffers, however, the case may be a little more complicated, since they are employed by a public agency. They may still be able to pursue claims, but the process may a little difference than it would be with a private employer.

Beyond the resignation of the man implicated in the sexual harassment claims, many are also calling for the assembly leader to resign for his role in brushing the story under the rug. Although these calls are coming from across the board, even members of the leader's own party insist that he should step down. A number of people believe that leaving the current leadership structure intact wouldn't allow for the changes that are necessary to better handle sexual harassment claims in the future.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "After Lopez, New Rules In Albany," Erica Orden, May 20, 2013

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