Cases Under the New York City Human Rights Law

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New York City Human Rights Law Cases

Explained by Our New York Employment Lawyer

Schwartz Perry & Heller has been involved in handling cases brought under the New York City Human Rights Law since the law was first enacted in 1991. Protecting employees from discrimination by employers with more than 4 employees, the New York City Human Rights Law stands as one of the most comprehensive human rights laws in America. This law received its constitutional seal of approval from the New York State Appellate Court when Schwartz Perry & Heller represented a sexual harassment victim in the case of Bracker v. Cohen. The Appellate Court’s ruling that the New York City Human Rights Law was constitutional paved the way for victims of employment discrimination in the 5 boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island), to seek the protection of a broad and protective human rights law, more protective that its New York State and Federal counterparts. Schwartz Perry & Heller is proud of its achievement in this regard.

The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in employment based on any of the following:
  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Alienage (citizenship status)
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Marital status
  • Partnership status
The remedies provided for under the New York City Human Rights law are broader and more expansive that than its New York State and Federal counterparts. Under the City Law, a victim of employment discrimination can recover uncapped compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees, if the plaintiff is the prevailing party at trial.

Amendments to the Law

In October 2005, the New York City Council amended the City Human Rights Law with the Restoration Act of 2005. This amendment and the growing body of case law that has developed around it has made it clear that the City Law requires a uniquely liberal interpretation, which is beneficial for victims of discrimination in the workplace.

Of particular note is the fact that Courts in New York, when reviewing disability discrimination cases, have determined that what constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” is anything that does not cause “undue hardship” and the burden of proving “undue hardship” is on the employer. In other words, where the burden was once on the employee to prove that he/she could perform the essential functions of his/her job with a reasonable accommodation, now the employer has to plead and prove that the employee could not perform the essential functions of his/her job with a reasonable accommodation.

On August 17, 2011, the New York City Human Rights Law was further amended when the New York City Council passed “The Workplace Religious Freedom Act.” This amendment to the law requires that employers accommodate the religious observances of its employees unless doing so would cause “undue hardship,” which is defined as an accommodation which would require “significant expense or difficulty.” The burden now rests on the employer to make such a showing. This amendment has confirmed that the New York City Council is determined to ensure that the New York City Human Rights Law is treated in the broadest way possible to achieve its goal, which is to eradicate all forms of discrimination in employment in the City of New York.

If you work in New York City and believe that you are being discriminated against for one of the reasons prohibited by the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York employment discrimination attorneys at Schwartz Perry & Heller are here to help. Call Schwartz Perry & Heller now to speak with one of our attorneys.

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