New Legal (and Financial) Requirements for NYS Employers in Business and at Work
In addition to the increase in the NYS minimum wage on December 31, 2015, New York state employers have a host of new legal requirements to consider as part of the related new laws known as the Women’s Equality Act effective January 19, 2016, including:
- Protect victims of sexual harassment: This new law protects all employees from sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of the size of the employer. Currently, the definition of “employer” excludes employers with fewer than four (4) employees, thus prohibiting individuals from filing harassment complaints with the Division of Human Rights against those employers. This new law expands the definition of “employer” to cover all employers within New York in sexual harassment cases so that an employee of any business can file a workplace sexual harassment complaint.
- Remove Barriers to Remedying Discrimination: This new law allows successful plaintiffs to recover attorneys’ fees in employment discrimination cases based on sex. Before the enactment of this new law, plaintiffs were previously not able to recover attorney fees at trial for employment discrimination cases, making it costly to bring a case.
- End Family Status Discrimination: This new law prohibits employment discrimination based on familial status, e.g., their status as parents or guardians of children under the age of eighteen, making such employees less likely to be recommended for hire or promotion. This new law prohibits employment agencies, licensing agencies, or labor organizations from discriminating against workers based on their familial status.
- Protect Women from Pregnancy Discrimination: This new law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Some pregnancies can result in medical conditions requiring certain accommodations within the workplace and current protections for pregnant women are confusing and have been misinterpreted. This new law clarifies that employers must perform a reasonable accommodation analysis for pregnant employees.
These new laws (among others) impacting NYS employers should prompt the addition of (at minimum) handbook updates and annual harassment awareness training for employees at all levels to your 2016 to-do list in business and at work.
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