Written by Senator Craig Johnson
Friday, 31 July 2009 00:00
Discriminatory Language Bill Passes Senate
A measure sponsored by Senator Craig M. Johnson (D-Nassau) that would eliminate the insensitive, outdated and derogatory use of “oriental” in state documents passed the State Senate last week.
“This is about basic decency,” said Johnson, whose sister is of Korean decent. “The codification of hateful language in official state documents is obviously wrong, and frankly, should have been eliminated long before now. I am proud to have partnered with Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) to ensure that this legislation has passed both houses of the Legislature.”
The Johnson-Meng bill would eliminate the word “oriental” under the category of “Race” in all state documents. According to Merriam-Webster’s New World College Dictionary, when the word “oriental” is used to describe a person, it is regarded as a term of disparagement.
“Derogatory and insensitive language, like that Craig and I are addressing with our legislation, should not be allowed to linger on official state forms,” said Meng. “What is on a state form is a reflection of our shared values and priorities. For adults faced with such language it’s a sad reminder of a time when even casual insults of Asian-Americans were accepted and encouraged. For younger New Yorkers it’s alien, insulting and confusing. There is nothing good about this relic and it needs to be removed from our official discourse.”
The measure passed the Senate and the Assembly unanimously. It is awaiting consideration by the governor.
Legislation to Protect Domestic Violence Victims
Important legislation sponsored by Senator Craig M. Johnson, (D-Nassau), that would protect victims of domestic violence and stalking from workplace discrimination was recently signed into law by the governor.
The bill (S.958B) will prohibit employers from terminating the employment, or refusing to hire an individual based on their status as a domestic violence or stalking victim. It is the first bill of its kind in New York State.
“For many victims of domestic violence and stalking, their employment situation is their only stable environment,” Johnson said. “That is why we must do everything we can to help these victims hold onto this stability and independence as they work to rebuild their lives.”
Abusers frequently try to control their partners by interfering with their ability to work, including preventing them from going to work, causing disruptions at their workplace and limiting their access to money or transportation. This bill ensures that these types of actions will not influence the employment status of the victim at work.
“Financial security is one of the most important factors in whether a victim of domestic violence will be able to separate from an abusive partner,” said Westchester Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who sponsored the bill in the Assembly. “We are proud that this legislation will help victims maintain their jobs without fear of unfair termination.”
Additionally, addressing incidents of domestic violence requires time and energy, and often, victims must leave work to handle the legal implications of abuse, attend court, and/or speak with law enforcement officials. The bill will protect the victims’ right to leave work to pursue their legal cases.
The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, NOW and the Association of the Bar of NYC supported Johnson’s bill and are celebrating its passage into law.
“Adding victims as a protected class to human rights law takes a meaningful step toward eliminating one of the primary reasons survivors lose their employment,” said Patti Jo Newell, CEO of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “This law will help support survivors in their efforts to gain independence from abusers.”
“The National Organization for Women-New York State thanks New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Craig Johnson for their leadership in passing crucial legislation for victims of domestic violence,” said the group in a statement.
State Senate Extends COBRA Healthcare Benefits
The New York State Senate recently passed legislation (S.5471) that will protect unemployed workers by extending their health insurance benefits from 18 months to 36 months, Senator Craig M. Johnson, (D-Nassau), announced.
“In this current economic climate, it is more important than ever to alleviate some of the stress felt by families facing unemployment,” Johnson said. “This legislation will ensure that hard working New Yorkers who have lost their jobs recently through no fault of their own can continue to have access to their healthcare during this transitional period.”
Additionally, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), recently unemployed New Yorkers who were working at small businesses are eligible for these extended benefits.
Previously, companies with fewer than 20 employees were not eligible for COBRA once they became unemployed, leaving thousands of citizens without the coverage they need to get back on their feet.
Earlier this session, Senate Democrats passed legislation that protects New Yorkers by allowing those who have recently lost their job to retain their health coverage at 65 percent discount of the continuation premium.