Following New York City’s lead, New York state and Westchester County have each enacted laws providing additional workplace protections to victims of domestic violence. In this post, we will discuss these new laws and their impact on your business.
New York state:
Last month, Governor Cuomo signed legislation amending the state’s antidiscrimination laws with respect to victims of domestic violence. The new law, which goes into effect on November 18, 2019, prohibits employers from engaging in the following discriminatory activities:
- Refusing to hire or employ someone because they are a victim of domestic violence;
- Terminating someone because they are a victim of domestic violence;
- Discriminating against a victim of domestic violence with respect to compensation or the terms and conditions of their employment;
- Printing or circulating a statement, advertisement, or publication that expresses any limitation, specification, or discrimination as to status as a victim of domestic violence; or
- Using an employment application or making an inquiry in connection with prospective employment that expresses any limitation, specification, or discrimination as to status as a victim of domestic violence.
Under this law, employers must also provide accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence under certain circumstances – when they must be absent from work to seek medical treatment, obtain counseling, obtain legal services or appear in court, or participate in safety planning – unless such accommodations would pose an “undue hardship” on the employer.
Employees are required to provide reasonable notice of their absence. If such advance notice is not feasible, an employer may request that the employee provide verification of the basis for the absence. Employers may require employees to use PTO or vacation time for such absences and, if such time is unavailable, may treat the accommodation as unpaid time off.
In April 2019, Westchester County enacted legislation requiring employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid safe time leave to employees who are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking. Under the new law, which goes into effect on October 30, 2019, employees will be permitted to take paid safe leave to attend or testify at legal proceedings or relocate to a safe location.
Westchester employers will be required to provide paid safe leave in addition to sick leave under the county’s Earned Sick Leave Law. To be eligible for paid safe leave, an employee must have worked in the county for more than 90 days in a calendar year. Employers will be required to provide a copy of the law and a written notice explaining the law upon an employee’s hire or by January 28, 2020. Employers will also be required to conspicuously display a copy of the law and a poster in English and Spanish on their premises.