New York City Amends Its Human Rights Law to Prohibit Discrimination Against Unemployed Persons

HR Update Newsletter HeadingEffective June 11, 2013, the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) will prohibit discrimination against unemployed persons.  Notwithstanding strong protests from employers and the mayor’s office, the NYC Council overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the amendment on March 13, 2013. The amendment prohibits employers with four or more workers operating in New York City from discriminating against an unemployed person, retaliating against an employee who opposes a practice prohibited by the amendment or testifies on behalf of the unemployed employee.

In effect, “unemployment” status joins a growing list of protected categories in NYC which includes discrimination based on an employee’s actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, disability, age, partnership status, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship status and status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses and stalking.

The amendment prohibits an employer from making any employment decision based on a job applicant’s unemployment status.  For instance, claims that an employer failed to hire an unemployed person or offered an unemployed applicant less money or fewer benefits than it offered an employed job applicant would now be prohibited. An exception is that employers may consider unemployment status where there is a “substantially job-related reason for doing so” such as an employee’s prior separation from employment for poor work performance.

The amendment allows an unemployed individual who believes he/she has been discriminated against to file a complaint with the NYC Human Rights Commission or a civil action to recover front and back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Employers should advise all of their human resources personnel about these new restrictions.  Employers should also review all job postings and employment applications to ensure that they do not run afoul of this amendment.  As always, should you have any questions or require more information regarding these new regulations, please do not hesitate to contact us at 516-921-3400, or at abpearl@pmphr.com



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