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1. What are my obligations under the NYC Human Rights Law as a business owner and provider of a public accommodation?
The NYC Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in Public Accommodations on the basis of these protected categories:
Age, Race, Color, Religion/Creed, National Origin, Gender, Pregnancy, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, Disability, Sexual Orientation, Marital or Partnership Status, and Immigration or Citizenship Status.
This protection includes discrimination because of an individual’s actual status as well as what people think or perceive an individual’s status to be. Individuals are also protected based on their association with other individuals who fall into a protected category.
The Law prohibits places or providers of a public accommodation from making statements or posting advertisements that directly or even indirectly suggest any limitation or discrimination based on any of these protected categories.
2. Is my business a public accommodation? Do I have to comply with the NYC Human Rights Law?
Anyone who provides goods and services to the general public is considered a public accommodation and is subject to the NYC Human Rights Law, including the owner, franchisor, franchisee, lessor, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of the place or provider of the public accommodation.
3. What are some examples of the types of businesses that are considered public accommodations?
Stores, Banks, Medical/Dental Offices, Government Agencies, Hair Salons, Hospitals, Subways/Busses, Hotels, Restaurants, Theaters, Schools, Taxis.
It is against the NYC Human Rights Law for a public accommodation to withhold or refuse to provide those goods or services based on the following protected categories under the Law: Age, Race, Color, Religion/Creed, National Origin, Gender, Gender Identity, Disability, Sexual Orientation, Marital or Partnership Status, Immigration or Citizenship Status.
4. If someone comes into my business with a dog, can I ask the person to leave?
People who rely on service animals because of their disabilities must be treated the same as if they visited your business without an animal. Get more information service animals.
5. The aisles in my store are too narrow for a person in wheelchair to get through. What should I do if a person in a wheelchair wants to shop here?
You must make every effort to make your store accessible to all potential shoppers. If it is architecturally or financially infeasible to do so, you must offer the goods or services to the person in a modified way. For example, offer to pick up the items in the back of the store for the person if they cannot get to the back.
6. How can a Public Accommodation provider comply with the Department of Health and the Human Rights Law pertaining to service animals since a provider cannot ask for service dog identification?
Although animals are typically not allowed in food establishments, the NYC Health Code has an explicit exception that states that service animals are allowed in restaurants and food establishments. Get more information on service animals.
If you are concerned that a patron has entered your business with a pet rather than a service animal, you may ask: Is that a service animal required because of a disability? If the person with the animal answers “Yes,” you may then ask: What work or task does that animal perform? If the person can answer both of those questions, the Human Rights Law requires the animal be allowed in the place of public accommodation anywhere that a member of the public would be allowed.
7. I have questions about my obligation to provide bathroom access based on gender identity, where can I get more information?
8. Do we need to build a single-occupancy bathroom if we don’t have one?
No. The NYC Human Rights Law does not require entities to construct additional restrooms, or make existing bathrooms unisex. The Law only requires that individuals be permitted to use the bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity, regardless of their sex assigned at birth, anatomy, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on their identification.
9. I didn’t do anything wrong, but my agent or employee did—am I still liable?
Yes. Even if you did not personally discriminate against patrons, you are still liable for violations of the Law by your employees and agents. It is in your interests to make sure that your employees and agents are educated about the requirements of the NYC Human Rights Law.
Get information about outcomes in discrimination cases: