New York State Human Rights Law

The NYS Human Rights Law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job seeker because of his or her age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, disability, military status, domestic violence victim status, criminal or arrest record, or predisposing genetic characteristics.

It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against any individual because she filed a complaint, opposed any unlawful practice, or testified or assisted in an investigation or proceeding.

The law applies to employers with four or more employees.

What type of discrimination is unlawful?
Under the NYS Human Rights Law, it is illegal for an employer or licensing agency to refuse to hire or employ, or to fire an individual on the basis of his or her creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, disability, military status, domestic violence victim status or predisposing genetic characteristics. It is unlawful to discriminate against an individual in compensation, training programs, or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of a protected category.

It is unlawful for an employment agency to discriminate against an individual in referring an applicant to an employer, or in receiving, classifying or disposing of an application for employment referral on the basis of a protected category. A labor union cannot exclude, expel or otherwise discriminate against members based upon the protected categories.

No employer or employment agency may print or circulate job advertisements that express any limitation, specification or discrimination based on the protected categories, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification.

It is unlawful to force a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence, unless the pregnancy prevents the employee from performing activities reasonably involved in the job.

Arrest & Conviction Records
It is unlawful for an employer to deny a person a job based on a criminal record or conviction unless the conviction is directly related to the job duty or poses an unreasonable risk to persons or property.

Employers can ask about criminal convictions including misdemeanors and felonies. Employers cannot ask about arrests that were resolved in favor of the individual (dismissed, declined to prosecuted, voided, etc.), cases resolved by a Youthful Offender adjudication, or violations (convictions or pleas) that were sealed.

Reasonable Accommodations for Persons with a Disability
It is a discriminatory practice for an employer, licensing agency, employment agency or labor organization to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to the known disabilities of an employee, applicant or member in its policies, procedures or facilities unless an employer can show that such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the facility or cause an undue burden. Undue burden means it would cause significant difficulty or expense.

Religious Accommodations
It is unlawful for an employer to require a person to violate or forego a sincerely held religious practice as a condition to obtain or retain employment, or for a promotion unless, after engaging in a bona fide effort, the employer cannot reasonably accommodate the employee’s religious practice without undue hardship on the business.

Compulsory Retirement
No employee can be terminated or forcibly retired on the basis of age, unless age is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of a particular business, or the retirement falls under a narrow exception in the law. Generally, state and local governments are exempt from this prohibition.

Filing a Complaint
Complaints are filed with the NYS Division of Human Rights. You must file with the Division within one year of the most recent discriminatory act. You may also file directly in state court within three years of the most recent act of discrimination. You cannot file both in state court AND the Division of Human Rights. If you file with the Division of Human Rights, it will investigate the alleged discrimination. If the Division finds probable cause of unlawful discrimination, the case will proceed to an administrative hearing, similar to a trial, and an administrative law judge will make a determination in the case.

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