New York Broadens Harassment and Discrimination Protections for Employees

UPDATE – August 13, 2019: This bill was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on August 12, 2019 (Chp. 160)

The end of legislative session brought passage of a bill which, if signed by the Governor (as expected), will move New York to the forefront of states acknowledging the importance of safe workplaces for all employees.  Of primary importance, and in sum, discriminatory harassment will no longer need to be “severe or pervasive” to be illegal, a requirement that can deprive employees of redress for abusive, discriminatory behavior. Employers will avoid liability only if they can prove that the conduct complained of is not more than petty slights or trivial inconveniences. This standard is already the law in New York City. In addition, those pursuing claims of discriminatory workplace harassment will no longer be barred from asserting a claim simply because they did not complain about the harassment.  The bill also expands protections against all forms of unlawful discrimination to include independent contractors and workers employed by small employers. Finally, it allows employees to recover punitive damages and attorney fees if they win their cases.  The bill was supported by the City Bar’s Sex and Law Committee and can be read in full here