NY employers see expansion of anti-discrimination law to protect unemployed
The New York City Council passed a new anti-discrimination earlier this month that prohibits employers from discriminating against the unemployed. The new statute, which will go into effect June 11, 2013, gives unemployed individuals the right to sue in court and recover damages and legal fees if they feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of their employment. This New York ruling is the broadest version of the nation’s current anti-discrimination law to date, expanding upon other anti-discrimination laws that recently passed in New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C.
Among the new regulations, the law prohibits New York employers and employment agencies from basing hiring decisions and other employment terms and conditions on an applicant’s unemployment status, or from posting job advertisements that list current employment as a requirement or qualification for the job. The law does, however, list certain exceptions for employers that would not be considered violations; employers may, for example, consider and individual’s unemployment as it may relate to their past behavior in a prior position, such as misconduct or poor performance, rather than no fault of his or her own. Employers may also require certain job-related qualifications, such as certifications, or a minimum level of training or experience when considering applicants for open positions. Click here to read more about the rule and exceptions to the law.
Not all New Yorkers supported the new measure. The Bloomberg administration and other state regulators opposed the law, arguing that allowing individuals to file discrimination lawsuits and complaints with the City Commission would result in “significant feasibility and operational challenges” for the organization due to a drastic increase in the organization’s annual caseload. The law would hurt employers as well, the administration argued, since they would face additional defense costs related to nuisance suits brought on by rejected job applicants. Despite the criticism, the NY City Council pushed the measure through anyway, with an overwhelming majority voting to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the law.
Now is the time for New York employers to review the specifications and rules of the new law to make sure they are in compliance when it takes effect in June. Furthermore, there are several steps employers can take to reduce their exposure and risks. For example, staff members involved in the recruitment and interviewing processes must be properly trained on what they may or may not discuss with applicants in regards to a candidate’s employment background. Companies who hire employment agencies to act on their behalf will also have to consult with these firms about their recruiting efforts and be sure that they are acting in accordance with the new law.
About the Author
Ann Mizner McKay is the General Counsel and Senior Vice President at WGA. She manages the legal affairs of the company and also manages the Claims Department.