On August 20, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to the New York Human Rights Law which grants additional employment protections to victims of domestic violence, similar to those already provided by the New York City Human Rights Law. Beginning on November 18, 2019, employers in New York State will be required to provide certain reasonable accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence or parents of children who are victims of domestic violence.
On August 12, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the legislation that was passed by the New York State Assembly and Senate on June 19, 2019, making sweeping changes to the New York Human Rights Law. We previously posted a summary of the significant amendments to the Human Rights Law and the potential impact that these amendments could have on the litigation of discrimination and harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights and in court. The legislation does not apply retroactively, so only future claims under the Human Rights Law will be affected.
New York has for many years had a law on the books that prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee because the employee has complained about an alleged violation of the wage and hour laws. Specifically, New York Labor Law Section 215 states that an employer may not "discharge, threaten, penalize, or in any other manner discriminate or retaliate against any employee" because the employee complained of an alleged violation of the Labor Law or otherwise cooperated with a Department of Labor or Attorney General investigation regarding an alleged violation of the Labor Law.
On July 29, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation amending the statute to specify that the phrase "threaten, penalize, or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against any employee" includes threatening to contact or contacting United States immigration authorities or otherwise reporting or threatening to report the citizenship or suspected immigration status of an employee or an employee's family member. The legislation is effective 90 days after the date on which the Governor signed it.
On July 12, Governor Cuomo signed a bill amending the New York Human Rights Law to prohibit employment discrimination based on "traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles." The term "protective hairstyles" includes, but is not limited to, "such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists." This amendment took effect immediately upon the Governor's signature.
In 2018, Governor Cuomo signed a State Budget bill that included various provisions addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Among those provisions was a prohibition on including in any written contract a clause requiring the submission of sexual harassment claims to arbitration, except where inconsistent with federal law. On June 26, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held, in Latif v. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, that this New York law prohibiting mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act and is therefore invalid.
Yesterday morning, moments ahead of the parade in New York City to celebrate the Women’s National Soccer Team’s World Cup victory, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law two bills related to equal pay. The enactment of this legislation follows allegations made by members of the Women’s National Soccer Team that the U.S. Soccer Federation has engaged in gender-based wage discrimination by paying the Women’s Team less than the Men’s National Soccer Team.
On June 19, 2019, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed legislation that makes sweeping changes to the New York Human Rights Law. This legislation will have a significant impact on the litigation of discrimination and harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights and in court. It is expected that Governor Cuomo will sign the legislation soon. The legislation does not apply retroactively, so only future claims under the Human Rights Law will be affected.
In the early morning hours of April 1, 2019, New York State passed its new yearly budget. Though the budget included several items of importance and interest, it was an under-the-radar provision revising paid voting time for employees that caught our attention.
On March 26, 2019, the New York State Court of Appeals issued a ruling that will have a significant positive impact on home care agencies across the state. In a five-to-two decision, the Court upheld the validity of the New York State Department of Labor’s “13 Hour Rule” for cases involving 24-hour live-in care. Under the “13 Hour Rule,” a residential employee assigned to work a 24-hour shift need only be paid for 13 of those hours, so long as he or she is provided with an 8-hour sleep break and three hours of meal breaks. (If the employee’s meal breaks are interrupted, or if the employee does not get five uninterrupted hours of sleep, the employer must pay for the entire break.) Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, participated in the case, representing amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State.
On December 11, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals issued a decision (over two dissenting opinions) addressing public access to police personnel and disciplinary records. The Court held that certain personnel records sought by the New York City Civil Liberties Union (“NYCLU”) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) are exempt from disclosure under New York Civil Rights Law § 50-a and New York Public Officers Law § 87(2)(a). In doing so, the Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division, First Department, and the broad applicability of Civil Rights Law § 50-a to requests for police personnel/disciplinary records.
The New York State Department of Labor announced recently that it does not intend to implement its proposed regulations that would have imposed burdensome requirements on employers to provide call-in pay to employees under a variety of circumstances not currently covered under existing regulations. The regulations were initially proposed in November 2017, and then were revised in December 2018 after public comments were received and reviewed. The NYSDOL now intends to let the regulatory process expire with respect to the proposed regulations and potentially revisit this issue in the future.
On January 15, 2019, the New York legislature passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (“GENDA”). GENDA, which faced more than a decade of impasse in the State Senate, was signed by Governor Cuomo on January 25, 2019.