Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Human Rights

Purple image stating "NYC: Stop the Spread of Coronavirus" with icons underneath, representing washing hands, staying home, an elderly person, and a television.  NYC Health logo is on the bottom right.

Last Updated: April 8, 2020

Information about coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing at a rapid pace. For the latest information, text “COVID” to 692-692 or visit the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) website at NYC.gov/coronavirus where you will find information about preventing the spread of this disease, symptoms, and guidance on citywide mandates such as school and business closures.

Harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, age, and disability (including having COVID-19 or another serious illness) is illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law. For example, in recent weeks, we have heard several instances of hostility and harassment directed at Chinese and other Asian individuals and communities related to COVID-19 anxiety. If you have faced harassment or discrimination in housing, at work, or in any public place, contact the Commission by filling out our online form or by calling 311 and asking for "human rights." If you are a victim of or witness a hate crime, call 911.

Case Deadlines

For claims set to expire between March 20, 2020 and April 18, 2020, the deadline to file a complaint under the NYC Human Rights Law is extended to April 19, 2020. For more information, see the Governor's Executive Order. Deadlines in ongoing cases at the Commission have also been extended during this time period. If you have questions about this, fill out our online form or call 311 and ask for "human rights."

Appeals in Cases Dismissed for Administrative Cause

Due to the disruption that COVID-19 has caused, the Commission will postpone issuing decisions on appeals in cases where the complaint was dismissed by the Law Enforcement Bureau for administrative cause, under section 8-113(a) of the New York City Human Rights Law. This means that, where applicable under section 8-502 of the New York City Human Rights Law, the time for filing claims in state court will not begin to run until a decision on the appeal is issued. If you have questions about this, contact policy@cchr.nyc.gov, and review our fact sheet about appeals of dismissals for administrative cause.

Housing Protections

Your landlord cannot harass or discriminate against you, kick you out, or ask you to leave your apartment because of fears or stigma around COVID-19, including harassment or discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, national origin, disability, or other protected classes. If you are facing harassment and discrimination by your landlord, please contact the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Learn more about COVID-19 and your housing rights.

Employment Protections

On March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced statewide guidance directing non-essential employees to remain at home. Learn more at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home.

Your employer cannot harass or discriminate against you because of fears or stigma around COVID-19, including on the basis of actual or perceived race, national origin, age, disability, or other protected class.

In response to the emerging health crisis posed by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), the New York City Commission on Human Rights is adopting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidance, "Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act" originally published on October 9, 2009 and reissued on March 19, 2020. In general, compliance with the EEOC guidance will satisfy employers' obligations with respect to disability protections under the New York City Human Rights Law as they relate to COVID-19.

Supplemental information and key things to note regarding the Commission's application of the EEOC guidance:

General prohibitions against discrimination: Even in the midst of a pandemic, protections against discrimination under the New York City Human Rights law remain in effect. Employers must be sure that their policies and practices, including those implemented in response to COVID-19 like newly implemented work from home policies, do not discriminate against or treat workers less well based on their protected status, including race, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, and disability, among others.

Reasonable accommodations: Employers still have a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to their workers. Employers should accommodate people who have contracted, are suspected of having been exposed to, or are recovering from COVID-19, unless doing so poses an undue hardship. In addition, employers may be required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with underlying conditions for whom exposure to COVID-19 may pose a particular risk of complication, for example by allowing them to do telework.

Medical Notes: Because requests for medical notes related to COVID-19 could place excess burdens on the health care system, employers should not request medical notes to confirm disability related to COVID-19.

Scope of adoption: The Commission's adoption of EEOC guidance to address the current public health crisis does not constitute a wholesale adoption of federal disability law, nor does it limit the New York City Human Rights Law beyond the scope of what is covered within the EEOC guidance.

The Commission may update this guidance as the situation related to COVID-19 develops. You are encouraged to check back to this site.

Public Accommodations Protections

It is illegal for business owners or staff at places of public accommodations (e.g. grocery stores, medical facilities, restaurants, among others) to kick you out, refuse to serve you, or otherwise treat you less well than other customers because of fears or stigma around COVID-19, including harassment or discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, national origin, disability, or other protected classes.

Additional Information

Price Gouging is Illegal: Medical masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes have been temporarily declared in short supply. This means it is illegal for stores to overcharge you for these items during the shortage due to the new coronavirus. For more information, visit the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.

Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law: With some exceptions, employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year are guaranteed paid sick leave under New York City’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law. For workers who are sick and have paid sick leave, please use your paid sick leave time. Contact the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection if you face retaliation or face other adverse action such as threats or discipline for using your sick leave.