Former New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo “subjected female employees to a hostile work environment” and “retaliated against employees who spoke out about the harassment,” the Department of Justice announced Friday, after reaching a settlement with the state.
The settlement does not require Cuomo to pay anything or admit any wrongdoing, according to his spokesman.
The department said its report is based on an investigation it conducted into allegations against Cuomo, who resigned in August 2021 after a state investigation found the third-term Democrat sexually harassed 11 women and oversaw an unlawful attempt to exact retribution against one of his accusers.
Cuomo, according to the Justice Department, “subjected at least thirteen female employees of New York State, including Executive Chamber employees, to a sexually hostile work environment.” The report said he “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.”
When complaints were raised, “the Executive Chamber’s response was designed only to protect Cuomo from further accusations, rather than to protect employees from sexual harassment,” according to the report.
The report indicates a strong show of support from the federal government for the findings in the 2021 investigative report by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Cuomo has tried to sow doubt about the allegations and his accusers. He has stewed for years about the investigation, maintaining that he was mistreated, and toyed privately with running for office again. One of his top aides, Melissa DeRosa, wrote a book largely defending Cuomo.
Cuomo representatives on Friday continued their pushback, dismissing the settlement as an attack on the former governor by his political opponents.
Rita Glavin, Cuomo’s attorney, called it a “political settlement with no investigation” and said in a statement that the Justice Department did not contact Cuomo about the matter.
The settlement is a remarkable repudiation of Cuomo, who for years claimed he did nothing criminal. The settlement was struck by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. Cuomo and his allies have complained about Hochul, who was Cuomo’s lieutenant governor and rose to the governorship after his resignation, since she took office. The pair were never close.
In announcing the settlement, the Justice Department also acknowledged Hochul’s efforts to correct what it said had gone awry under her predecessor.
“We appreciate the Governor’s stated determination to make sure that sexual harassment does not recur at the highest level of New York State government,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.
“The conduct in the Executive Chamber under the former governor, the state’s most powerful elected official, was especially egregious because of the stark power differential involved and the victims’ lack of avenues to report and redress harassment,” Kristen Clarke, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement.