New York State recently amended its Human Rights Law to expand protections against workplace discrimination. Governor Hochul signed three bills that amend the law in the following ways:
Under Senate Bill S5870, an employer’s release of an employee’s personnel file may be considered unlawful retaliation against an employee who complains about workplace discrimination. The law continues to allow disclosure of personnel files in judicial or administrative proceedings. The same law gives the State’s attorney general the power to sue an employer who has been, is, or is about to engage in unlawful retaliation. This new law took effect on March 16, 2022.
Under Senate Bill S3395A, the definition of “employer” now includes New York State and any city, county, town, village, or other political subdivision of the State. This extends the protections of the Human Rights Law to public employees including elected officials’ staff members and court personnel. This new law also took effect on March 16, 2022.
Under Senate Bill S812, New York State will establish a toll-free confidential hotline staffed by attorneys who will provide counsel and assistance to individuals with complaints of workplace sexual harassment. Employers will be required to include information about the hotline in their sexual harassment policies. This law is scheduled to go into effect as of July 14, 2022.
We also note that, under a bill signed on December 31, 2021, domestic workers are fully covered by the NYS Human Rights Law. Previously, the law protected domestic workers against harassment but not discrimination.
Other bills pending in the State legislature may restrict the use of non-disclosure, non-disparagement and no-rehire clauses in settlement agreements, may extend to three years the time to file discrimination claims with the NYS Division of Human Rights, and may extend to six years the time to file discrimination claims in State court. We will continue to track the progress of these bills.