August 19, 2019

August 19, 2019

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New York Expands Harassment Laws, Protections of Religious Attire, Clothing, or Facial Hair

New York state has enacted sweeping new workplace harassment protections for employees, including lowering the standard for when harassment is actionable.

It also has adopted new law prohibiting employment discrimination based on religious attire, clothing, or facial hair.

Workplace Sexual Harassment

On August 12, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S. 6577/A. 8421) to strengthen New York’s anti-discrimination laws. One provision of the enactment eliminates the requirement that harassment be “severe or pervasive” to be actionable. The new standard of review for sexual harassment cases imposes greater potential liability on employers and goes into effect 60 days after enactment, on October 11, 2019.

Under this change, and consistent with New York City law, it will be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to subject an employee to harassment based on the individual’s membership in any protected class, or because the individual has opposed any harassment claim or participated in a harassment proceeding, “regardless of whether the harassment would be considered severe or pervasive under precedent applied to harassment claims.” This change comports New York law with the current standard under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Another provision extends the statute of limitations to file sexual harassment claims with the New York State Division of Human Rights from one year to three years. The new statute of limitation goes into effect one year after enactment, on August 12, 2020.

For more on these and other provisions of the legislation, see our article, New York Expands Harassment Laws.

Religious Attire, Clothing, Facial Hair

On August 9, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation (S. 4037 /A. 4204) that prohibits employment discrimination based on religious attire, clothing, or facial hair. The new law, which is similar to existing New York City law, goes into effect 60 days after enactment, on October 8, 2019.(For details of the New York City law, see our article, New York City Releases Enforcement Guidance on Race Discrimination on Basis of Hair.)

The new law amends the New York State Human Rights Law to make clear that employers cannot refuse to hire, retain, promote, or take other discriminatory action against an individual for wearing attire or facial hair in accordance with the tenets of their religion.

Further, employers are prohibited from treating applicants or employees differently because of that person’s religious beliefs.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019

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About this Author

Richard Greenberg, Jackson Lewis, workplace grievances lawyer, arbitrations litigation attorney
Principal

Richard Greenberg is a Principal in the New York City, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He advises both unionized and union-free clients on a full-range of labor and employee relations matters.

With respect to traditional labor matters, Mr. Greenberg represents clients in collective bargaining negotiations, labor disputes, grievances and arbitrations, proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, and in state and federal court. Mr. Greenberg also advises clients on the legal aspects of remaining union-free....

212-545-4080
Christopher M. Valentino, EEOC litigation, labor attorney, Jackson Lewis Law firm, employment litigator
Office Managing Principal

Christopher M. Valentino is Office Managing Principal of the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and is a member of the firm’s Board of Directors. Mr. Valentino represents companies in matters relating to traditional labor, equal employment opportunity, employment litigation and related matters.

Mr. Valentino has extensive experience in all matters relating to EEO compliance and workplace laws and a frequent speaker at management education programs. Since joining Jackson Lewis in September 2000, he has regularly counseled clients in the development and implementation of preventive labor and employee relations programs and has represented management with respect to union organizational drives and in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, the federal and state courts and other federal and state administrative agencies, as well as in the area of collective bargaining, contract administration and arbitration.

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Jonathan L. Bing, New York, Government Relations, Jackson Lewis Law firm
Principal

Jonathan L. Bing is a Principal in the New York City and Albany, New York, offices of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Mr. Bing represents clients in a broad range of advocacy including advancing legislation in the New York State Legislature and New York City Council; securing funding from State and City budgets for non-profit organizations; advising on cutting through the “red tape” of government, and, defending clients against investigations by the New York State Department of Financial Services and Attorney General. Representative clients include the...

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