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What Are My Rights as an Employee Under the New York City Human Rights Law?

Employees around the country who are being discriminated against on a prohibited basis, such as sex or race, may bring race discrimination, sex discrimination, age discrimination, and disability discrimination claims in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act. But employees who work in New York City often have the right to bring discrimination claims under the much broader and more employee-friendly New York City Human Rights Law.

What types of employers are covered by the New York City Human Rights Law?

The New York City Human Rights Law’s protections cover employers with four or more employees (in some cases, including independent contractors).

Which types of employment discrimination are prohibited under the New York City Human Rights Law?

The New York City Human Rights Law bans employment discrimination on the basis of age, perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, caregiver status, sexual orientation, and alienage or citizenship status. These categories include far more prohibited bases for discrimination than do, for example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1974, which by its own terms only bans employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. (However, some courts have interpreted Title VII more broadly to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation). So for employees suffering discrimination in New York City, the local Human Rights Law provides far more expansive protection against different types of discrimination.

What kinds of employment actions may be challenged under the New York City Human Rights Law?

Under the New York City Human Rights Law, employees and job applicants can challenge a number of job-related decisions and actions by employers, including discriminatory refusal to hire a job applicant, wrongful termination, pay discrimination, and discrimination in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

Other than employers, who else can be held accountable under the New York City Human Rights Law?

The New York City Human Rights Law contains specific provisions that prohibit employment agencies and labor organizations from discriminating on any of the prohibited bases described above. Other employees, such as supervisors and managers, are also prohibited from aiding or abetting any type of discrimination prohibited under the law.

Does the New York City Human Rights Law provide protection from retaliation?

Under the New York City Human Rights Law, if an employee or other person has opposed any discriminatory conduct prohibited under the law, asserted their rights by filing a lawsuit under the law, or engaged in other protected activity, then any retaliation or discrimination against that person on that basis is prohibited and constitutes a separate violation of the law. Notably, any such retaliation does not have to rise to the level of “an ultimate action with respect to employment . . . or in a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment” as long as the retaliation or retaliatory discrimination would be “reasonably likely to deter a person from engaging in protected activity.”

What other rights does the New York City Human Rights Law provide me as an employee in New York City?

The New York City Human Rights Law provides specific and in some cases more limited protections against discrimination in hiring on the basis of criminal records, consumer credit history, unemployment status, and status (actual or perceived) as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking.

While federal employment anti-discrimination law provides a floor of employee rights and employer responsibilities that apply nationwide, the New York City Human Rights Law rises above that federal minimum. New York employees who think they may have been discriminated against should seek counsel from an experienced employment discrimination lawyer.

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a nationwide litigation law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, San Diego, Nashville, and Baltimore. We represent individuals against powerful interests. We act as a private attorney general in support of the private and public good. Learn More

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