Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 13 former and current state employees while senior staff looked the other way and retaliated against some of his accusers, according to a new settlement agreement between the New York executive chamber and the U.S. Department of Justice. News of the agreement comes amid reports that Cuomo has been considering a political comeback in recent months.
Cuomo had resigned from office in August 2021, shortly after an investigation by New York attorney general Letitia James found he had sexually harassed 11 women, nine of whom were his employees. Cuomo has repeatedly denied the accusations, calling them “politically motivated” and “untruthful”; he also sued James last week to force her to release documents related to her investigation. The new settlement comes two and a half years after federal prosecutors launched their own investigation; while investigators found that Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment, he is not a party to the settlement.
The DOJ found that the former governor created a sexually hostile work environment during his time in office. Over eight years, 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,” according to the settlement. Investigators also found that Cuomo’s senior staff knew of his systemic harassment and failed to address it, instead retaliating against four of his accusers. “The Executive Chamber’s response was designed only to protect Cuomo from further accusations, rather than to protect employees from sexual harassment,” the settlement reads. An attorney for Cuomo told the Associated Press that the former governor denies the allegations.
The settlement requires the New York Executive Chamber to follow a series of reforms to prevent future misconduct, some of which Governor Kathy Hochul has already implemented, including the creation of a human-resources department and a workplace-sexual-harassment hotline. It further calls for expanding the HR department, offering more training to supervisors, and implementing an anti-retaliation policy. “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 took immediate action to do so,” Hochul said in a statement. “I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has acknowledged the significance of those efforts, and look forward to partnering with them as we continue to build upon that success.”
While state prosecutors have declined to pursue criminal charges against Cuomo over sexual-misconduct complaints from three women, he is still fighting civil lawsuits from two of his accusers, former aides Brittany Commisso and Charlotte Bennet. Commisso alleges a pattern of “continuous sexual harassment,” accusing Cuomo of groping her and retaliating against her when she reported it; Bennet alleges the former governor subjected her to “critical, sex-based comments and humiliating assignments.” Cuomo has denied their claims.