Amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law Over the Past Five Years Expanding Protections to Workers
During the past five years, the New York City Council has enacted a remarkably large number of amendments to the New York City Human Rights Laws that significantly expand employees’ protections against discrimination and harassment. The following is a listing of those amendments with a short description of the new law.
Expanding the Number of Groups Given Protected Status and Discriminatory Practices
The City Council expanded the number of groups accorded protected status from discrimination and harassment and the types of:
- The law was amended to protect not just “employees” from unlawful discrimination but also interns, freelancers, independent contractors and domestic. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-107(23); effective March 12, 2022).
- Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of uninformed services (e.g. U.S. armed forces, national guard) is now prohibited. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-101).
- The “Fair Chance Act”: prohibiting discrimination based on one’s arrest record, pending criminal accusations or convictions. (Amending N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-130; effective July 29, 2021).
- Prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s sexual and reproductive health decisions. (Amending N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102; effective May 20, 2019).
- Reducing the employee threshold: whereas for all other forms of discrimination and harassment to be actionable an “employer” must have a minimum of four employees, for claims of “gender-based harassment” the employee need only have a single employee. (Amending N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102(5); effective Jan. 11, 2020).
- Whereas the statute of limitations for filing discrimination and harassment claims is one year, the statute of limitations for gender-based harassment claims is lengthened to three years. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-109(e); effective May 9, 2018).
- Mandating employers with 15 or more employees to provide interactive, anti-sexual harassment training. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102 (30); effective May 9, 2018).
- Mandating employers to create and post an anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities poster, created by the NYC Human Rights Commission. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102(29)(30); effective May 9, 2018).
- Requiring employers to provide new hires with an anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities fact sheet to be developed by the NYC Human Rights Commission. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102(29)(e); effective May 9, 2018).
Gender and Sexual Orientation
- Amending the definition of “sexual orientation” to read: “an individual’s actual or perceived romantic, physical or sexual attraction to other persons, or lack thereof, on the basis of gender. A continuum of sexual orientation exists and includes, but is not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality.” (Amending N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102; effective Jan. 10, 2018).
- Amending the term “gender” to include “gender identity, and gender expression including a person’s actual or perceived gender-related self-image, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristics, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth.” (Amending N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102; effective Jan. 10, 2018).
- Making it an unlawful practice for employers to inquire about or rely upon a prospective employee’s salary history. The employer may discuss with an applicant his or her salary expectations. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-107(25; effective May 4, 2017).
- Making it an unlawful discriminatory practice to not include in a job posting information on the lowest and highest salaries which the employer would in good faith believe it would pay for the job. (Effective May 15, 2022)
- As of January 2022, and continuing for two years, the Commission on Human Rights shall design, prepare and utilize a variety of methods to address age discrimination in the workplace. (Local 124, effective Dec. 20, 2020).
- Requiring the Commission on Human Rights to create an anti-discrimination poster that includes age discrimination, which city agencies must display in employee common areas. (Local 120, effective Dec. 20, 2020).
- Requiring city agencies to provide age discrimination training to their employees every two years. (Adding Sect. 815.2 to Ch. 35 of the City Charter, effective April 19, 2021).
- Requiring employers to provide lactation rooms; if doing so would pose an undue hardship for the employer, it must engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee regarding a reasonable alternative. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-107(22)(b)(c), effective Nov. 17, 2018).
- Requiring employers to implement a lactation rooms accommodation policy, which must include reasonable break times for an employee to express milk, and to communicate to all employees on hiring. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-107(22)(c), effective Nov. 17, 2018).
- Prohibiting retaliation against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-107(7), effective Nov. 11, 2019).
- Making it an unlawful practice for an employer not to engage in a cooperative dialogue with an employee who has requested a reasonable accommodation or the employer “has notice” may require a reasonable accommodation. The reasonable accommodation request may be for religious reasons, disability, pregnancy and medical regarding childbirth. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-107(28), effective Jan. 18, 2018).
- Prohibiting drug testing for marijuana. (N.Y.C. Admn. Code § 8-102(31), effective May 10, 2020).
This article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact RPJ Attorney John A. Beranbaum who counsels clients on employment law, litigation, arbitration, negotiation, and trial advocacy. Mr. Beranbaum is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey and before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals from the Second and Third Circuits, U.S. District Court for Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, District of New Jersey, Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Northern District of Florida.