New York expands discrimination protection

October was quite a month on the employment front in New York, as Governor Cuomo signed a number of bills signed expanding discrimination protections within the workplace. Five of the most notable bills include:

  • Sexual harassment now prohibited across the board – Under previous legislation, employers with less than four employees were exempt from coverage under the state human rights law. Now, in relation to sexual harassment cases only, all New York employers are covered.
  • Pay equity – As an amendment to the state’s previous equal pay law, the new legislation provides clarification to a previously unclear section of the law dealing with exceptions to achieving equal pay. Language that used to read “any factor other than sex” now reads “a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience.”
  • Familial discrimination – The new legislation adds familial status as a protected category to the human rights law of New York.
  • Discrimination remedies – Under the new legislation, victims of sex-based employment discrimination can receive attorney’s fees as part of their damage award. This only applies to sex-based employment discrimination cases. The state’s Human Rights Law still prohibits the payment of fees for other types of discrimination cases.
  • Reasonable accommodations – Employers are now required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with pregnancy related conditions, as long as the accommodation allows the employee to perform her job duties in a “reasonable manner.” Employers are instructed to treat the pregnancy related condition as a temporary disability. In addition, employees are responsible for providing the employer with information to verify the condition.

For questions or concerns about this new legislation, contact our office to speak with an attorney.