Recent & Upcoming NY Laws Protecting Workers’ Rights

There have been several recent changes to New York State law to increase protections for workers’ rights, including changes scheduled to take effect later in 2020. This post summarizes and highlights these important legislative changes.

As of October 11, 2019, several changes were made to the New York State Human Rights Law to make it easier for complainants of discrimination to file and prosecute their claims. The relevant changes are:

  • An employer is required to provide employees, in writing or electronically, a notice of its anti-sexual harassment policy, as well as copies of all information presented at the employer’s anti-sexual harassment training. This requirement extends to both the time of hiring and at each annual training
  • Any settlement agreements resolving discrimination claims against an employer may not include a confidentiality provision unless the claimant is given 21 days to decide whether to agree to such provision, prefers such a provision and is given 7 days to change their mind about agreeing to such a provision.
  • The evidentiary standard for harassment claims under New York State Human Rights Law is now more equitable, making it less burdensome for individuals who have been the victims of harassment to prove their cases. Previously, individuals claiming harassment had to show that the conduct was “severe or pervasive,” which made it difficult for plaintiffs to prove such claims. Under the new standard, plaintiffs need only show that the conduct complained of subjected them to inferior terms of employment because of their membership in a protected class. The exception to the new standard is if the conduct alleged is merely “petty slights or trivial inconveniences.”
  • Non-employees, including independent contractors and temporary workers, may now bring discrimination claims under state law.

In December 2019, the hourly minimum wage was increased to $11.80.

Effective January 6, 2020, employers are prohibited from inquiring of job applicants about salary history and from relying on any such information they may receive in the making of hiring decisions. Specifically, employers may not:

  1. Request or require a job applicant provide his salary history; or
  2. Use an applicant’s salary history to decide whether to offer him a job or to decide his salary; or
  3. Refuse to hire or promote, or retaliate against, an applicant or employee based on salary history, failure to provide the same, or because of the filing of a complaint alleging a violation of this law.

Effective February 8, 2020, all employers, regardless of the number of employees, are subject to the New York State Human Rights Law. The law currently only applies to New York employers with four or more employees.

Effective August 12, 2020, the statute of limitations for the filing of sexual harassment claims in the New York State Division of Human Rights will be expanded to three years, which is the statute of limitations for such claims under New York City Law. Currently, the law provides for merely a one-year statute of limitations for such claims. This change applies only to sexual harassment claims, and other discrimination and harassment claims will continue to be governed by a one-year statute of limitations.

For more information or to consult with an experienced NYC employment law attorney, please contact Colleen M. Meenan at Meenan & Associates, LLC.

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