New York City’s Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is one of the broadest anti-discrimination statutes in the country. But does it apply to all Big Apple employers, regardless of size? A recent amendment passed by the City Council clarifies precisely which entities are considered “employers” for purposes of the NYCHRL.

In its current incarnation, the NYCHRL simply states that it does not apply to any employer with fewer than four persons in its employ. This definition has been subject to debate, however, due to the statute’s broad definition of employee, which currently encompasses employees that are full- or part-time, permanent or temporary, paid on or off the books, or are paid or unpaid interns. However, the amended law expands these protections to (1) independent contractors, (2) freelancers and (3) an employer’s parent, spouse, domestic partner or child, if employed by the employer.

The new, amended law also specifies that “the term ‘employer’ does not include any employer that has fewer than four persons in the employ of such employer at all times during the period beginning twelve months before the start of an unlawful discriminatory practice and continuing through the end of such unlawful discriminatory practice….” This means that the NYCHRL now applies to an employer with four or more employees (including independent contractors), within the twelve months preceding the alleged discriminatory incident. This law is currently awaiting the mayor’s signature, and will go into effect 90 days after becoming law.

Employers should take note of this amendment, to determine whether it affects their exposure to claims under the NYCHRL, violations of which include the risk of:

  • Civil penalties of up to $250,000
  • Hiring the complainant
  • Reinstatement of the complainant
  • Promotion of the complainant
  • Back pay
  • Front pay
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs

If you have any questions or concerns about the new amendment, or how it affects your company, Reed Smith’s experienced Labor & Employment Group is ready to speak with you. For more information regarding this law, please contact your Reed Smith attorney.