Governor Signs Legislation to Address Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
On March 16, 2022, Governor Hochul signed a package of legislation designed to address workplace harassment and discrimination. Each bill amends the New York Human Rights Law.
Confidential Hotline. The legislation directs the Division of Human Rights to establish a toll free confidential hotline to provide individuals with complaints of workplace sexual harassment counsel and assistance. Callers will be connected with experienced pro-bono attorneys who are experienced in providing counsel related to sexual harassment matters. The hotline will operate during regular business hours.
According to the sponsor’s memorandum supporting the bill:
Nearly 75% of all sexual harassment goes unreported and those who do report often face retaliation and inadequate redress. As a result, many victims of workplace sexual harassment are unable to exercise their legal rights because they are not aware what those rights are and/or are afraid to exercise their rights.
The legislation also specifically prohibits the attorneys from soliciting the individuals they advise through the hotline.
The hotline should be up and running by July 14, 2022, the effective date of this legislation.
Release of Personnel Records Defined as Retaliation. The Human Rights Law prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the Human Rights Law by filing a complaint or otherwise testified or assisted in any proceeding under the law. However, this legislation now specifically includes the release of personnel records as a form of prohibited retaliation.
Personnel records may still be released or disclosed as part of a proceeding. However, the leaking of personnel files with the intent to disparage or discredit a victim or witness of discrimination in the workplace is now expressly prohibited.
All Public Employees Now Covered by Human Rights Law. Although the Human Rights Law defined “employer” to include all employers within the state, a number of court cases held that this did not include the state itself. The legislation now expressly includes both the state of New York, and cities, counties, towns and other political subdivisions within the definition of “employer” under the Human Rights Law.
There have been numerous changes to New York Human Rights Law over the last several years. We invite you to read our posts about these changes (New York Expands Anti-Discrimination Protections for Employees, New York Releases Final Guidance on New Sexual Harassment Prevention Law, and New York Requires Policies and Training to Combat Sexual Harassment).
We have represented countless employers facing complaints of unlawful discrimination or retaliation before the Division of Human Rights. If your business is facing a complaint of discrimination in the Division or a charge of discrimination before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, please contact us to discuss how we may be able to assist you.
If you would like to schedule a consultation to talk about our firm’s employment litigation practice, please contact Peter Weishaar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.512.3542. Peter's employment practice includes the representation of businesses and individuals in matters involving restrictive covenants, non-compete agreements, discrimination, failure to pay wages in State and Federal Courts, and before administrative agencies, including the New York State Division of Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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