What recent and significant changes have been made to NYC’s human rights laws?
Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently signed into law amendments intended to remediate and strengthen the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), particularly in regard to franchisers, franchisees and lessors. In keeping with the Mayor’s stated purpose of improving legislation to protect employees and tenants from having their civil rights violated, he has signed into law amendments designed to:
- Remove language regarding sexual orientation
- Give the New York City Human Rights Commission the authority to award attorney fees
- Add franchiser, franchisee and lessor to the list of those forbidden to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, disability, or any other protected class
- Make it illegal to deny housing to anyone because he or she is a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking
- Make it illegal to use discriminatory advertisements and public statements
It is important for all employers, businesses, and lessors to review their procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with the newly amended NYCHRL. The new legislation requires that “exceptions and exemptions from the NYCHRL be narrowly construed in an effort “to maximize deterrence of discriminatory conduct.”
Another aspect of the amendments to NYCHRL’s protections addresses the manner in which discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be construed. The new wording states that language of the law should not be construed to:
- Restrict an employer’s right to require that employees meet certain actual job qualifications
- Permit employers to inquire about the sexual orientation of their current or potential employees or to adopt affirmative action quotas based on sexual orientation
- Limit or override any pre-existing exemptions under NYCHRL
- Legalize any act that violates New York Penal Law
- Endorse any particular behavior or way of life
In addition, the amendments make it unlawful to “offer benefits, services or privileges” to anyone who is (or is presumed to be) a member of a protected class in such a way that such a person is deprived of the full and equal enjoyment” of those benefits on “equal terms and conditions” as all others who are not members of a protected class.
If you have suffered workplace or housing discrimination in New York City, you should engage the services of a highly competent employment attorney, one with a track record of success.