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By now, our readers are aware that New York State and City law require annual workplace sexual harassment prevention training. The State law requiring such training took effect last October, and mandates that employers complete the initial training by October 9, 2019. The separate City law became effective just a few weeks ago, on April 1. It requires that covered employers – meaning businesses with 15 or more employees in NYC – comply with the City-specific training requirements by year-end.

In conjunction with the rollout of the City law, the NYC Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR), the agency tasked with administering the law, issued a series of FAQs to help employers navigate their new training-related obligations. The FAQs – which are not binding law, but do suggest how the NYCCHR will interpret and enforce the law – provide valuable insight. Consistent with the NYC Human Rights Law’s (NYCHRL) definition of “employee,” for instance, the FAQs note that “[a]n employer is required to train independent contractors who have performed work in the furtherance of the business for more than 90 days and more than 80 hours in a calendar year.” As the NYCCHR explains, “independent contractors – regardless of the number of days or hours they work – are considered employees for the purposes of determining whether an employer is obligated to provide the annual sexual harassment training.”Continue Reading Are non-NYC employees subject to the City’s new sexual harassment prevention training law?

Recently, New York’s highest state court, the Court of Appeals, held that the New York Labor Law (NYLL) does not automatically entitle New York home health care providers to wages for each hour worked during a 24-hour shift.

The ruling is the result of an appeal of two state court class actions in which home health aides accused their employers of violating NYLL by failing to pay minimum wage for each hour of their 24-hour shifts. The dispute arose due to a phrase in the New York State Department of Labor’s (DOL) Minimum Wage Order Number 11 for Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations (the regulation), which states that workers must be paid minimum wage for the time they are “required to be available for work at a place prescribed by the employer.” Plaintiffs in both cases alleged that they were entitled to 24-hour pay because their patients could not be left alone and often needed assistance throughout the night, thereby requiring them to be available for work for their entire shift.Continue Reading New York’s highest court holds that home health aides are not entitled to 24-hour pay

A New York City Council member recently proposed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) that would restrict fast food establishments from firing employees without “just cause.” The purported reason for this amendment is to provide more job security to fast food workers.

The bill defines “just cause” as an “employee’s failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or misconduct that is demonstrably and materially harmful” to the business. If enacted, the proposed bill would require that a termination for just cause be the result of the fast food establishment’s use of “progressive discipline” within a one-year window from the date of the employee’s termination. “Progressive discipline” refers to “a disciplinary system that provides a graduated range of reasonable responses” to an employee’s failure to perform their job satisfactorily. Any discipline issued to the employee outside of the one-year timeframe would not be considered a part of the progressive discipline supporting a just cause termination. The bill would also require employers to provide the employee with a final, written explanation of the specific reasons for their termination. However, these protections would not extend to any fast food employee (1) covered by a collective bargaining agreement or (2) within their probationary period (30 days from date of hire).Continue Reading Not so fast … New York City Council proposes ban on no-cause firings

On February 19, 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) issued new enforcement guidance regarding (1) policies that place restrictions, or ban, naturally curly hair, dreadlocks, braids and cornrows, among other hairstyles; or (2) neutral grooming policies that are discriminatorily applied to employees based on aspects of their appearance associated with race.

In its guidance, the NYCCHR emphasized that the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) “protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.” For “Black people,” which the NYCCHR defines as individuals “who identify as African, African American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin-x/a/o or otherwise having African or Black ancestry,” this includes the right to maintain natural hair, treated, or untreated hairstyles. Grooming or appearance policies that restrict natural hair or hairstyles associated with “Black people” therefore violate the NYCHRL’s anti-discrimination provisions.Continue Reading New York City Commission on Human Rights issues new guidance on race discrimination on the basis of hairstyle

In Amaya v. Ballyshear LLC, et al., a case before a New York Federal District Court, Nelly Amaya, a Long Island resident, alleged that her former employers engaged in unlawful discrimination and retaliation, in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). Amaya’s employers argued that Amaya failed to show that their alleged conduct had an “impact” on her within the confines of New York City. At the time of the alleged conduct, Amaya was employed as a housekeeper at Ballyshear, Michael Bloomberg’s Southampton, Long Island residence.

Despite the long-standing precedent that the protections of the NYCHRL are only afforded to those who inhabit or are “persons in” New York City, Amaya attempted to invoke the law’s broader protections by claiming that the following connections to city satisfied this requirement: (1) the decision to hire and fire her was made in New York City; (2) she attended several meetings in the corporate defendants’ New York City office; (3) supervisors in the New York City office interacted with her during the course of her employment; and (4) there was a possibility that she might work at other locations within New York City.Continue Reading New York Federal Court lays down the law: Employees cannot invoke NYCHRL’s broad protections when impact of discrimination is felt outside NYC

This week, the New York City Council passed new amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibit employment discrimination, discriminatory harassment and violence on the basis of an individual’s sexual and reproductive health decisions. A copy of the new, amended law can be found here.

The amended law defines “sexual and reproductive health decisions” as any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for, or offered or provided to individuals, relating to their sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.Continue Reading NYC Council enacts new protections for employees’ sexual and reproductive health decisions

Beginning March 18, 2019, New York City employers with four or more employees will be required to provide lactation rooms to employees upon request. Specifically, under two bills recently passed by New York City Council (Int. No. 879-A and Int. No. 905-A), New York City employers must:

  • Upon request, provide a lactation room and a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage within reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area
  • Provide a written lactation room policy and notice.

Lactation room requirements

 Employers may not designate a restroom as the lactation room. Rather, the room must be (i) a sanitary place (ii) that can be used to express breast milk, and (iii) is shielded from view and free from intrusion. But the requirements do not end there – the room must also have access to an electrical outlet, a chair and a surface for a breast pump or personal items, as well as nearby access to running water. If employers choose to use a multipurpose room as the lactation room, it must be designated as a lactation room only, while being used as such.

If a requested accommodation under this law would impose an undue hardship on an employer (lack of space, lack of resources to convert or create a new room), it must engage in the cooperative dialogue process with the requesting employee, in order to determine whether there is a feasible alternative. Remember – following the cooperative dialogue process, an employer must provide a formal written determination to the requesting employee, granting or denying the request and providing a reason for a denial.Continue Reading NYC employers must provide lactation rooms effective March 2019

On October 15, 2018, the New York City Human Rights Law (CHRL) was amended to require employers to engage in a “cooperative dialogue” with individuals who may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the CHRL.

Whereas federal and state laws require an “interactive process” to determine a reasonable accommodation, the CHRL requires that employers go one step further – employers must engage in a good faith written or oral dialogue concerning:

  • The person’s accommodation needs
  • Potential accommodations that may address the person’s accommodation needs, including alternatives to a requested accommodation, and
  • The difficulties that such potential accommodations may pose for the employer.

Continue Reading End of year reminder for NY employers: NYC’s cooperative dialogue law is in effect

New York City is at it again – continuing its quest to be the most employee-friendly jurisdiction in the country. On January 8, 2019, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced proposed legislation that would require private employers to provide employees with mandated paid time off/vacation. If passed by the City Council, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation, requiring employers to provide paid time to use for vacation and other purposes, as opposed to sick leave.

The proposed legislation would apply to all private employers with five or more employees, and would exclude contract employees and freelancers. Under the proposal, paid time off would accrue at a rate of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 10 paid workdays off per year. Employees would become eligible after 120 days of employment. Part-time employees would be eligible for limited paid time off, based on the number of hours worked.Continue Reading NYC may soon require employers to provide paid vacation

As we previously reported, on October 9, 2018, two landmark New York State laws concerning sexual harassment prevention take effect. These laws require that all Empire State employers:

  • Implement a written sexual harassment prevention policy that meets or exceeds the content of a model sexual harassment prevention policy prepared by State regulators, and