Past victims of sexual assault in New York State have just been granted a powerful new opportunity to assert legal claims, as legislation signed by Governor Hochul on May 24, 2022 grants individuals who were victims of a sexual offense as an adult a one-year grace period to commence a civil lawsuit based on that sexual offense. The Adult Survivors Act, as it is called:
- covers “sexual offenses” as defined by article 130 of the state Penal Law (which include instances of nonconsensual forcible touching, sexual assault, or rape) and incest;
- temporarily removes the time bar from any state law civil claim arising from a sexual offense; and
- applies to individuals who were age 18 or older at the time of the sexual offense.
The law took effect immediately upon being signed on May 24, 2022. Civil actions must be commenced within six to eighteen months following that effective date.
This law potentially revives legal claims against individual employees and their employers related to certain incidents of sexual misconduct that had been time-barred. The law does not, however, revive old legal claims to the extent they were validly waived under a release agreement with a current or former employee.
Employers need not take any action in direct response to the new law, but should be aware of the potential surfacing of old legal claims – and the attendant challenges of locating witnesses, documents and other information to defend those claims.
This article additionally has been posted in the blog for WHRMA, the Westchester Human Resource Management Association, and I invite you to check there as well as here for updates on laws impacting employers in New York State, Westchester County, and New York City.
By Tracey I. Levy