New York lawmakers have been busy this summer. First, in June, they passed a suite of bills significantly expanding the protections afforded by the state’s antidiscrimination law and adding remedies for employees asserting unpaid wage claims. Then in July, they loosened the definition of retaliation under the state’s labor law. They apparently were not done.
On August 9, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill barring employers from discriminating against employees for “the wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion.” This law expands upon existing New York state and city laws that prohibit religious-based discrimination and require employers to provide religious accommodations.
This new measure, which takes effect October 8, is the latest in recent efforts to curtail appearance-based discrimination. As we previously detailed, earlier this year, New York (and California) banned race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles and New York City issued guidance on race discrimination on the basis of hairstyle. Employers should train human resources personnel and supervisors on this new law and conduct a review of their policies on personal appearance and grooming, dress code, and accommodations to ensure compliance.