The New York City Human Rights Law has been amended in several respects to provide more extensive protections and rights against discrimination in the employment, housing, and public accommodation contexts. The changes are as follows:
- The Human Rights Law already provided that it should be interpreted more broadly than the federal and state discrimination laws in order to accomplish the law's uniquely broad and remedial purposes. One of the amendments expands that concept by providing expressly that all exemptions and exceptions from the law's general provisions are to be construed narrowly in order to maximize deterrence of discriminatory conduct. Remarkably, the law identifies three New York appellate decisions that have properly interpreted the law, including the oft-cited decision in Williams v. New York City Housing Authority, 61 A.D.3d 62 (1st Dep't 2009).
- In proceedings before the New York City Commission on Human Rights, attorneys' fees, expert fees and costs are now recoverable. The difficulty of the case and the prevailing market rates for attorney services are identified as factors to be considered in awarding attorneys' fees.
- With respect to the persons and entities required to abide by the law's requirements that public accommodation be provided in a non-discriminatory fashion, the law has been expanded to cover franchisors, franchisors and lessors in addition to the already covered owners, lessees, proprietors, managers, superintendents, agents, and employees of any place or provider of public accommodation. Further, the law's prohibition of discriminatory public statements has been expanded to prohibit statements that the patronage or custom of any person is unwelcome, objectionable, not acceptable, undesired, or unsolicited because of such person's actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, age, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation, alienage, or citizenship status.
- Finally, the New York City Human Rights Law now prohibits housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence. It is unlawful to refuse to rent, lease, sell, or otherwise deny an interest in a housing accommodation because of an individual's actual or perceived status as a domestic violence victim.
All of these new provisions are now effective. We recommend that New York City employers and businesses revisit their policies, training materials, and practices to ensure full compliance with the New York City Human Rights Law in view of its expansive and ever-broadening scope. We are available to assist with compliance and training.
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