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Human rights in New York City: A step above

Jenna is three months pregnant and worried about whether she will lose her job once she begins to show. She has heard that the restaurant she works for thinks pregnant servers are a liability.

Charisa, who is black, has been approached by five co-workers wondering how she ever managed to get hired at the construction company were she is a receptionist. The owner is Latino, as are all of the other employees. Will her employer treat her differently because she is not of Hispanic heritage?

Joe came to work one day and quietly, but excitedly, announced he was now going by the name Jo and would soon be transitioning to female. Jo’s boss seemed genuinely uncomfortable with the announcement. Is Jo’s job safe?

What employers need to know

In the above scenarios, the New York City Human Rights Law protects each employee. But what does that mean to you as an employer? What, exactly, are your responsibilities to these individuals?

Laws against discrimination were first codified in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and since then many states and municipalities have enacted even greater protections. New York City is at the forefront of employment equality, and companies with as few as four employees are required to comply.

Courts have recognized that the New York City Human Rights Law permits a finding that conduct is discriminatory even when the same conduct would not violate the federal or state statutes barring discrimination.

According to the City Council, which passed the law, the NYC Human Rights Law is intended to serve a "uniquely broad and remedial purpose." The net result is that employees who do not have a claim under federal and state law, may nevertheless have one under the City Human Rights Law. The New York City Human Rights Law protects employees from discrimination based on the following:

  • Their age
  • Their citizenship, or resident alien, status
  • Their arrest or conviction record
  • Their status as a caregiver
  • Their race or color
  • Their credit history
  • Their disability
  • Their gender or gender identity
  • Their marital, or other relationship, status
  • Their national origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Their religion or creed
  • Their sexual orientation
  • Victims of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking
  • Their status as unemployed

What can it cost me?

Compliance is essential for all businesses. Since there is no cap on compensatory or punitive damages for violations, small businesses in particular could be damaged, if not destroyed, by an unfavorable verdict in a case brought under the law.

Being aware of all the components of the law, and acting upon them accordingly, is the first step toward ensuring your company's success, now and int the future.


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