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Are You Aware Of The Human Rights Law Changes?Immigrant Affairs

In August, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation which advances the New York Human Rights Law.

Provisions which will take effect October 11, 2019 (60 days after Governor Cuomo signature) include:

  • Any harassment based on a protected characteristic that rises above “petty slights of trivial inconveniences” will now potentially be actionable under the statute;
  • An employer may be found liable for alleged harassment even if the employee did not report the alleged harassment to the employer prior to filing a lawsuit;
  • Increased potential financial penalties applicable to employment discrimination claims, including punitive damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

An additional provision will take effect on February 8, 2020 (180 days after the Governor’s signature) which will eliminate the requirement that an entity (employer) must have four employees in order to be covered by the law.  As a result, all employers will be subject to the law.

Additional changes to the New York State Human Rights Law that you should be aware of include:

  • Expansion the Mandatory Notice Requirements;
  • Lowering the standard for harassment claims;
  • Expanding the protections for contractors and other vendors against all forms of unlawful discrimination in the workplace, beyond sexual harassment;
  • Prohibiting mandatory arbitration to resolve claims of discrimination and harassment, beyond sexual harassment;
  • Requiring non-disclosure provisions in employment contracts which prevent disclosure of information related to any future discrimination claim to include a carve-out provision to expressly allow disclosure to law enforcement, the EEOC, the Division of Human Rights, the local commission on human rights, or any attorney retained by the employee;
  • Making punitive damages and attorneys’ fees available in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation lawsuits brought under the New York State Human Rights Law;
  • Increasing the statute of limitations for filing a complaint for sexual harassment with the Division of Human Rights from one to three years.

This is not intended to be legal advice.  You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.  This is only a sample of the changes.


Kelly A. Pressler is senior counsel and practices General Civil Litigation and Municipal Litigation.

She can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9565 and by email.

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