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New York State Expanding Human Rights Protections to All Employees

On February 8, 2020, New York State will expand employee protections under the Human Rights Law. As it stands currently, employers with four or more employees may be liable for violations of discrimination and harassment under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). On February 8, the law will apply to all employers regardless of size. This means that all employers in New York State will be prohibited from discrimination and harassment against any applicants and employees based on the following protected categories:

  • Age
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Domestic violence
  • victim status
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Familial status
  • Marital status
  • Military status
  • National origin
  • Predisposing genetic
  • Pregnancy-related
  • Prior arrest or conviction record
  • Race/color (including traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles)
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious practices (including wearing attire, clothing or facial hair in accordance with the tenets of religion)

As of February 8, all employees will be able to bring claims of discrimination or harassment against an employer under the updated law.

Now is the time to train managers and supervisors of the importance of creating an environment where all individuals are respected and provided with the support they need to perform at their best. It is also important that employers listen to what employees are saying and be prepared to act. For example, if an employee indicates they are having difficulty performing an aspect of their job due to a medical condition, employers of any size will be required to work with that employee to find a reasonable accommodation. It is important to have a conversation with an employee if they bring issues to your attention, and even more important to document the Company’s steps of engaging in an interactive process with the employee and any accommodations considered or provided.

It is also worth noting that the NYSHRL may make individuals liable for “aiding and abetting” discriminatory conduct in the workplace. For example, if a manager is aware that discrimination based on a protected category is occurring and fails to take steps to stop the conduct from happening, that manager could be held personally liable, as well as the business.

Additionally, all employers are required to post the “New York Discrimination Really Hurts” labor poster that may be found here.

Next Steps

Employers, especially those with four employees or less, will want to take note of this change. It’s important for all employers to maintain a pulse on the operations of the business to stop discrimination before it begins. Now is the time to train managers and supervisors about the new protections.

HR Works Can Help

HR Works can provide options for training on discrimination and non-harassment. Employers who are interested may contact us at (585) 381-8340 or 1-877-219-9062 (toll free).

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HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.