Professor Minna Kotkin Testifies at Historic New York State Hearing on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Professor Minna Kotkin, an expert on issues of employment discrimination and sexual harassment and director of the Law School’s Employment Law Clinic, testified before the New York State Legislature on Feb. 13 in a joint Senate and Assembly Public Hearing on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. It was the first public hearing on harassment held by New York lawmakers in nearly 30 years, prompted by an increase in reported incidences of sexual harassment in the workplace and social media and high-profile news reports of sexual harassment allegations that have brought national attention to the issue.
In prepared testimony, Kotkin—who has been a frequent commentator in the media about sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement—focused her remarks on two issues: confidentiality agreements that “protect serial harassers, allow companies to shield themselves from public scrutiny, and silence women who should have every right to discuss their experiences as they see fit,” and the need to recognize that sex discrimination in the workplace can also take many different forms that do not involve sexual harassment.
Kotkin urged the New York State Legislature to consider the approach adopted by other states. “New Jersey’s bill…simply provides: ‘A provision in any employment contract or agreement which has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment shall be deemed against public policy and unenforceable,’” she said. “This language encompasses not only settlements related to workplace sexual harassment but also religious discrimination, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, whistleblowing (CEPA claims), and more.”
Kotkin teaches, writes and lectures extensively about employment discrimination law and sexual harassment issues, as well as clinical legal education. She has served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Litigation and Section on Clinical Legal Education. She currently serves on the board of directors of Disability Advocates, Inc. and the United State District Court, Eastern District of New York Litigation Fund.