Third-term New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing a new reality: Those who wield power over others are not permitted to violate one’s personal space or to exhibit sexual innuendo.
Even the powerful governor of a powerful state, has to respect the personal dignity of others. Cuomo is being called to account for his years of harassment and inflicting discomfort to attractive women under his authority.
Eleven staffers and assistants of the governor have claimed inappropriate touching, kissing, groping and explicit remarks according to a recently published New York Attorney General’s report. If but one these allegations is accurate and found to be true, at some point there will be no-mo Cuomo.
We have laws against sexual assault and sexual harassment because over the last several years society has finally agreed to recognize that the workplace should be free of unwanted sexual innuendo and misconduct.
Long gone are the days where it was commonplace that the boss asked for favors in order for an employee to get that raise or a promotion. Especially rampant in the entertainment industry, moguls and the powerful could cast a role on a whim or in exchange for sexual favors or compliance.
Thirty-three years ago, a few of my cousins in Europe thought well of former President Bill Clinton for having relations with an intern. “He must be a real man,” one of them commented regarding Clinton’s affair with Miss Monica Lewinsky.
Now these same cousins of mine expressed disgust at Cuomo’s conduct. Views regarding respect for others are changing.
While society is still evolving, we are clearly moving toward holding a person of any gender or sexual orientation with full respect and esteem. That is the way it should be.
In California the rules of holding others with dignity I can summarize as these:
There shall be no comments or remarks of a sexual nature to any co-worker or employee, even if is “just a joke.”
Any touching in a sexual context, as it is perceived by the person being touched or by any reasonable person, is a form of battery and is a crime.
The claim “I meant no harm” is not a valid defense for inappropriate conduct. In other words, the “intent” of the person touching is not considered, which is why Cuomo is in big doo-doo.
Those who witness sexual misconduct are considered being negatively impacted and are sometimes classified as victims.
A team leader, supervisor, or executive may not request a date, “going out for coffee,” or any other personal activity of a subordinate. In California this could be considered sexual harassment.
A person of equal status in the workplace can ask one another out, but if refused, it cannot be asked a second time.
While some of these restrictions seem a bit harsh, these safeguards protect those vulnerable to manipulation and abuse.
If you would like to learn about sexual assault and harassment, the State of California has a free one-hour online course that explains in detail the laws we must follow. You can even print out a certificate if you take the quiz at the end. Every person hired in California must take this course within six months of being hired — so employers, please comply with this requirement so we can reduce the discomfort of our employees and co-workers.
Just about the entire New York legislature, primarily Democrats, and the State Democratic Party, wants Cuomo to resign or they are committed to impeachment. I am proud of the fact that political affiliation is not preventing the need to ouster a key official for disrespecting others under the law.
Perpetuating a toxic workplace, even by those whom you would otherwise politically support, is unacceptable. The higher the level of prominence and power, the greater should be the duty of respecting and caring for others.
Rather than attacking the victims and degrading and belittling those who claim to be harmed, Democrats are standing with the vulnerable and are willing to go after one of their own.
Gov. Cuomo is still living in the past, where sexual contact and innuendo were perks of power and position. Cuomo so far is putting up a fight, but if he does not resign, his party will certainly give him the boot.
The lessons here are principle over persons holding power; respect in place of abuse; elevating, not demeaning those because of appearance or sexual orientation; represent respect and offer human dignity.
Democrats are about supporting human dignity.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.