By Sabina Mollot
As a red carpet-length list of accusers continues to speak out against alleged serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein — State Senator Brad Hoylman is pushing a bill aiming to end the silencing of victims.
Hoylman, who’s authored the bill along with Queens Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, said it would forbid companies from forcing employees to waive their right to file claims of harassment or discrimination. It would also keep those companies from forcing those employees to keep quiet about such behavior. The prohibition also applies to companies when employing independent contractors.
“These non-disclosure agreements are preventing employees from speaking out so you have a vicious cycle that’s being perpetrated,” he said. “Multiple employees (of Weinstein Company) as we’ve seen, are all silenced.”
If a company were to tell an employee they still had to sign such an agreement, under the legislation, “it’s unenforceable,” said Hoylman. “A court would consider that portion null and void.”
Additionally, employees who’ve been victimized would have three years from the time of the incident to pursue a civil suit.
He called the legislation a first step in an awareness campaign against Weinstein-like offenses.
The bill was actually first introduced in May, by former State Senator Jack Martins. However, it was tweaked this week by Hoylman and Rozic in response to the accusations against disgraced film honcho Weinstein of sexual harassment and even rape. At this time, the list of accusations is as long as it is sickening with alleged sexual assault victims including actresses Rose McGowan and Asia Argento.
Hoylman said he intends to bring the bill to the Senate once the legislative session opens in January.
“Employees should never be forced to sign away their rights as a condition of employment,” he said. “Under our legislation, predators like Harvey Weinstein will no longer able to purchase the silence of victims.”
Rozic, who worked for Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh prior to being elected to office, described the bill as urgent in the wake of the Weinstein bombshell.
“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we protect employees from contracts that disempower and provide no course of accountability,” she said.
In related news, some lawmakers and organizations have come under fire for not returning all donations made by Weinstein (a major supporter of Democratic Party campaigns). Recipients include the Clinton Foundation and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The latter changed his mind a few days ago, however, with the governor agreeing to give back all the money he’d received over the years. The Clinton Foundation, meanwhile, said the money couldn’t be given back because it has already been spent on charitable endeavors.
On the subject of donations, Hoylman said, “I think everyone should return it. It’s tainted for sure.”