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1. What are my obligations under the NYC Human Rights Law as an employer, employment agency, or labor organization?
As an employer, you cannot discriminate in hiring, firing, or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on the following protected categories: Age, Race, Color, Religion/Creed, National Origin, Gender, Pregnancy, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, Disability, Sexual Orientation, Marital or Partnership Status, Alienage or Citizenship Status (non-citizen or immigration status), Arrest or Conviction Record, Credit History, Sexual and Reproductive Health Decisions, Status as a Victim of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, or Stalking, and Status as a Caregiver (for a child or sick family member).
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.
This includes ensuring that employees are free from harassment based on their membership in any of those categories.
Employment agencies are prohibited from acting upon applications for placement or referring applications based on any of the protected categories listed above. Labor organizations are prohibited from barring or expelling members based on any of the protected categories listed above.
The Law prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from making statements or posting advertisements that directly or even indirectly suggest any limitation or discrimination based on any of these protected categories. For example, you cannot suggest that a job requires a "background check" or is seeking applicants who have a "clean record" or with "no felonies" because those terms suggest or state limitations based on credit history or arrest/conviction record.
2. Does the Law cover my business?
The NYC Human Rights Law applies to employers who have employed four or more people within the past year. People count as “employees” whether they are full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary, interns or paid workers, and regardless of how they are paid.
Employment agencies and labor organizations are covered by the Law regardless of size.
3. What kind of reasonable accommodations do I have to provide?
The Law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers' disabilities, pregnancies (including childbirth and related medical conditions), religious observances and practices, and needs resulting from their status as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers are required to provide accommodations unless they would cause an undue hardship or eliminate one of the essential functions of the employee's job. Because each job is different, reasonable accommodations vary based on the workplace. Examples of reasonable accommodations are time off work to recover after surgery, allowing an employee to leave early to attend prenatal appointments, shifting an employee's schedule so they do not work on their Sabbath, or transferring an employee to an alternate work location for safety reasons.
4. I didn't do anything wrong, but my employee did-am I still liable?
Likely yes. If your employee has managerial or supervisory authority, you are automatically liable. Even if your employee does not have managerial or supervisory authority, you are liable if any of your managerial or supervisory employees knew or should have known about the conduct. Therefore, it is in your interest to make sure that your employees and agents are educated about the requirements of the NYC Human Rights Law.
5. Does the Fair Chance Act override existing state and or federal laws as it relates to a job applicant's criminal background?
No. If an existing law prohibits people with criminal records from holding a particular occupation, that law overrides the NYC Human Rights Law. If an existing law gives employers discretion, however, the NYC Human Rights Law applies.
6. How many years can an employer look back on someone's criminal background?
Once they have made a conditional offer of employment, employers can consider criminal convictions no matter how old they are. The age of the conviction, however, is one of the factors employers must consider under the NYC Human Rights Law. The older the conviction, the less relevant it is.
7. If an employer is exempt from the Fair Chance Act, can it ask about criminal convictions on a job application?
Yes. If the employer is legally prohibited from hiring people with certain conviction records, it may ask applicants about their conviction history on an application. Neither the employer nor the applicant should have to go through the hiring process only to find out that the employer could not employ the person even if it wanted to.
8. I have questions about my obligations under the Fair Chance Act: where can I get more information?
9. I have questions about my obligations related to hiring applicants with arrest or conviction records, where can I get more information?
10. I have questions about my obligations related to hiring applicants with bad credit, where can I get more information?
11. 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, regardless of their sex assigned at birth, anatomy, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on their identification.
12. I have questions about transgender employees, where can I get more information?
13. What if I am an independent contractor and someone I contract with harasses my employee? Who is responsible?
Employers are responsible for discrimination or harassment by their independent contractors if they are aware of the illegal behavior and do not take steps to stop it.
14. I operate an employment agency. If an employer asks me to discriminate on their behalf, could I be liable?
Yes. Employment agencies are liable for discriminating against applicants, regardless of whether they are acting on their own behalf or on behalf of an employer.
15. If I lose a discrimination case that has been filed against me, what remedies or damages can the Commission order?
The Commissioner can order a respondent to cease and desist from engaging in the unlawful conduct; reinstate an employee; provide an accommodation; pay for lost wages; and pay for emotional distress damages, among other remedies. The Commissioner may also assess civil penalties (paid to the City of New York) of up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton or malicious conduct, as well as require respondents to take other actions such as training for managers and employees.
Get information about outcomes in discrimination cases: