Changes to New York State Human Rights Law Expands Protection from Discrimination

Anyone who works in the State of New York is protected against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace by multiple laws, including the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). While the NYSHRL already provided greater protection against discrimination than the federal laws, recently passed amendments and proposed amendments that are pending approval vastly enlarged employees’ defenses against discrimination and harassment and expanded the liability imposed on employers. If you live in New York and suffered discrimination or sexual harassment at work, it is essential to meet with a trusted New York employment litigation attorney to discuss your prospective claims. At Phillips & Associates, our knowledgeable New York employment litigation attorneys are dedicated to assisting individuals who suffered harm due to sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace in the pursuit of damages in New York and throughout the Tri-State area.

2018 Changes to the NYHRL

The recent changes made to the NYSHRL provided greater protection for employees and certain non-employees and imposed greater liability on employers. The changes require employers to develop and distribute written anti-harassment policies and conduct annual mandatory programs to prevent sexual harassment. Additionally, protection from sexual harassment is expanded from employees only to consultants, contractors, vendors, and other individuals working for an employer under the terms of a contract. An employer can be held accountable for the sexual harassment of these individuals if the employer either knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to rectify the situation.

The changes also modified the terms employers are permitted to include in certain contracts. For example, employers are barred from including provisions in employment contracts that make it mandatory to arbitrate sexual harassment claims, if the provision states that the arbitrator’s findings will be final and binding. Further, an employer cannot insert a confidentiality clause in a settlement agreement for a sexual harassment claim, unless the employee specifically requests the inclusion of the clause in writing. Additionally, the employee must be granted twenty-one days to weigh the terms of a settlement agreement and must be allowed seven days after the execution of the agreement to retract the agreement.

Proposed Changes to the NYHRL

Several proposed changes to the NYHRL are currently pending approval from the New York governor. First, the changes made in 2018 regarding confidentiality clauses and claims pursued by non-employees would apply to all discrimination claims, not just sexual harassment claims. Additionally, under the pending changes, the NYSHRL would apply to all employers, regardless of how many people they employ.

The proposed changes also explicitly state that harassment is a form of discrimination and makes it easier for plaintiffs to recover on harassment claims. Specifically, a plaintiff pursuing a harassment claim must show that he or she was subjected to inferior conditions, terms, or privileges of employment, because he or she was a member of a protected class, rather than having to prove the harassment was pervasive or severe.

Discuss Your Claims with a Skilled Employment Litigation Attorney

If you work in New York and were subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination at work, it is imperative to meet with a skilled New York sexual harassment attorney to discuss your potential claims. At Phillips & Associates, our seasoned employment litigation attorneys will analyze the facts of your case and advise you of your options for recovering compensation for your harm. You can reach us through our online form or at (212) 248-7431. We represent individuals in employment litigation cases in New York City, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, as well as New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

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