New York City now has one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the nation. Named the NYC Human Rights Law, it protects against discrimination on gender which includes sexual harassment which encompasses any unwanted sexual behavior such as, touching, crude jokes, and lewd comments. For many years employers have been compelled by the law to provide a work atmosphere free of such behavior and harassment but with the #metoo movement many governments and commissions have been studying how to make such protections more robust. This law is an attempt by the City of New York to do just that.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights has released guidance on the new city law which is composed of a notice of employee rights and an employee fact sheet. Both of these publications are available on the Commission’s website and differ only by their titles, the content is virtually the same. One is meant to be displayed next to your other labor posters and one is meant to be handed out to employees.
As of September 6th, 2018 the law protects individuals against discrimination based on gender, which includes sexual harassment in the workplace, in housing, and in public accommodations like stores and restaurants. In regard to employment and the workplace, all employers must post the notice of employee rights, in English and in Spanish, in a conspicuous location in their workplace. They must also distribute the employee fact sheet (English only) to all new hires. Let’s look a little closer at the contents these required notices.
The “Stop Sexual Harassment Act Notice” notifies employees of the fact that sexual harassment is against the laws and provides a small and non-comprehensive list of examples of what acts may constitute sexual harassment. It also informs employees and employers alike that retaliation is prohibited under the law. The NYC Human rights Law prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating “in any manner against any person” because that person opposed an unlawful discriminatory practice. Even individuals who have a good faith belief that their employer’s conduct is illegal are protected from retaliation if their beliefs turn out to be mistaken.
Willful violators of the law can be hit with civil penalties of up to $250,000 and the commission can also assess emotional distress damages and other remedies to the victim. Other remedies can range from mandatory training to community service.