New York State Passes Bills to Strengthen Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Laws

Date: 6/25/19
Title: New York State Passes Bills to Strengthen Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Laws

Laws address harassment, race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles, salary history and wage differentials

The following bills have been passed and are waiting signing by Governor Cuomo.

S. 6577/A. 8421 (Harassment)

The law changes the old standard that harassment must be “severe and pervasive” to the individual being subject to “inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” as a result of his or her membership in a protected class.  The law also:

  • Eliminates the affirmative defense for employers and doesn’t require an employee to make a complaint of alleged illegal behavior.
  • Expands the class of individuals who are protected to cover non-employees.  In the current law, non-employees can file for discrimination but not harassment.
  • Allows for punitive damages and attorney’s fees in addition to monetary damages for back pay, front pay, and emotional distress.
  • Prohibits non-disclosure agreements that prevent the complainant from disclosing the underlying facts of any discrimination claim unless confidentiality is “the complainant’s preference.”  Complainants must be allowed a minimum of 21 days to review a non-disclosure agreement and seven days after the execution to revoke it.
  • Extends the ban on arbitration clauses to cover all forms of unlawful discrimination and not just sexual harassment claims.  The exception is for mandatory arbitration provisions set forth within a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Requires New York employers to distribute their anti-harassment policies and training materials in employees’ primary languages at the time of hire and at each annual anti-harassment training program.  The New York State Department of Labor will publish its model anti-harassment policy in multiple languages.
  • Lengthens the statute of limitations from one year to three years for filing a harassment claim.

Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the bill which will then go into effect.

A. 5308-B/S. 6549 (Salary History)

The new law, taking effect 180 days after enactment, will prevent employers from orally or in writing request or rely on wage or salary history from an applicant when making a job offer or determining the salary to be offered.  An employer cannot refuse to consider or retaliate against a job candidate for refusing to reveal his or her salary history.  The law covers both outside and in-house job applicants.  Similar laws exist in Suffolk and Westchester counties in New York. 

S. 5248-B/A. 8093-A (Wage Differentials)

The new law will expand the current law covering gender-based pay inequity and will require equal pay for “substantially similar work” and will prohibit pay differences based on a person’s membership in various protected classes, including sexual orientation, age, race, disability, and domestic violence victim status.  Similar to the Equal Pay Act, pay differentials will be allowed if they are based on a seniority system, a bona fide reason other than the individual’s membership in a protected class or a method of measuring earnings by quantity or quality.   Ninety days after signed by the Governor the law will take effect.

A. 7797/S. 6209 (Race Discrimination)

Laws will be amended to prevent race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles and includes “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles”.  Protective hairstyles include, but are not limited to, “such hairstyles as braids, locks and twists.”  Upon signing by the Governor the law will take effect. 

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.