New York’s New Employment Discrimination Laws Are Here

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

As we previously reported, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed an omnibus bill that overhauls New York’s antidiscrimination laws and uproot precedent upon which employers have relied for decades in defending harassment claims. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law on August 12, 2019, and the various amendments to the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), the General Obligations Law, the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR), and the New York Labor Law (NYLL) will take effect as follows.

Effective Date Description
August 12, 2019 Upon hire and at every annual sexual harassment prevention training program, employers must provide employees a notice containing the “employer’s sexual harassment prevention policy and the information presented at such employer’s sexual harassment prevention training program” (in English and in the primary language of the employee).
August 12, 2019 NYSHRL shall be construed “liberally for the accomplishment of the remedial purposes thereof, regardless of whether federal civil rights laws, including those laws with provisions worded comparably to the provisions of this article, have been so construed,” and exceptions and exemptions “shall be construed narrowly in order to maximize deterrence of discriminatory conduct.”
October 11, 2019 All private sector employers will be subject to the antidiscrimination provisions of the NYSHRL.
October 11, 2019 Harassment will be considered “an unlawful discriminatory practice when it subjects an individual to inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment” because of his or her protected characteristics. Employers will have a seemingly narrow affirmative defense to liability if “the harassing conduct does not rise above the level of what a reasonable victim of discrimination with the same protected characteristic would consider petty slights or trivial inconveniences.” “The fact that such individual did not make a complaint about the harassment to [his or her] employer . . . shall not be determinative of whether” such employer is liable.  Claims by domestic workers will be subject to the same standard.
October 11, 2019 The prohibition against unlawful discrimination based upon each of the protected categories identified in the NYSHRL will extend to nonemployees.
October 11, 2019 NYSHRL will permit the prevailing claimant to recover both attorneys’ fees and punitive damages from private employers.
October 11, 2019 Any nondisclosure term or condition will “be void to the extent that it prohibits or otherwise restricts the complainant from: (i) initiating, testifying, assisting, complying with a subpoena from or participating in any manner with an investigation conducted by the appropriate local, state, or federal agency; or (ii) filing or disclosing any facts necessary to receive unemployment insurance, Medicaid, or other public benefits to which the complainant is entitled.”
October 11, 2019 Employers will be prohibited from requiring employees to sign agreements that require mandatory binding arbitration of claims relating to any form of discrimination.
January 1, 2020 Any agreement entered into on or after January 1, 2020, “that prevents the disclosure of factual information related to any future claim of discrimination is void and unenforceable, unless such provision notifies the employee or potential employee that it does not prohibit him or her from speaking with law enforcement,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR), “a local commission on human rights, or an attorney retained by the employee or potential employee.”
August 12, 2020 Sexual harassment complaints filed directly with the NYSDHR  must be filed within three years (previously one year) after the alleged harassment.
2022 The New York State Department of Labor and NYSDHR must reevaluate and update the model sexual harassment prevention policy and guidance document every four years, beginning in 2022.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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