Changes to New York State Human Rights Laws for Q1 2022 Jobs & HR


United States: Changes to New York State Human Rights Laws for the First Quarter of 2022

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New York continues to be at the forefront of changing its anti-discrimination laws to expand employee rights and remedies. This post discusses the most recent recently adopted changes, but it looks like bigger changes are on the way. We will advise as the law changes.

A notable amendment provides additional protection for people filing complaints of discrimination and harassment. The law now defines retaliation as including harmful action against an individual for “disclosing an employee’s personnel file because he or she objected to practices prohibited by [the
New York State Human Rights Law] or because he or she filed a complaint, testified or assisted in a proceeding. This amendment takes effect immediately. It does not prohibit disclosures required for legal proceedings. The point to remember is simple: Employers must refrain from disclosing personal records of any protected activity by the employee. Employers who violate this rule will find that they have offered a gift to the employee, who now has a simple retaliation claim to prove, even if their discrimination claim is potentially arguable.

Another amendment directs the New York State Division of Human Rights, which enforces human rights law, to set up a confidential hotline for individuals to file complaints for sexual harassment at work. The hotline should be staffed with pro bono lawyers. Interestingly, the legislation states that the pro bono lawyers handling the hotline cannot seek additional representation from the people they are advising, which may well reduce the number of lawyers who volunteer for this task. Once the hotline is operational, employers will need to add information about the hotline to employees’ notices about their rights under the Human Rights Act. The hotline must be in place by July 14, 2022.

Additionally, the New York Attorney General now has the power to retaliate against employers. Remarkably, the Attorney General can bring such an action even if the employee has already settled with the employer.

According to another recent amendment, domestic workers are now covered by the Human Rights Act. The law remains inapplicable to persons employed by their own parents, spouse or child. Previously, the law provided protection against harassment, but not against discrimination, for domestic workers.

Finally, the Human Rights Act was amended to clarify the scope of claims against New York State and local government entities as an employer. The state and local entities are considered the employer of any employee of the executive, legislative, or judicial branches, including judges.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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