New York City Human Rights Law Cases
Explained by Our New York Employment Lawyer
Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP 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 LLP 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 LLP 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:
- National origin
- Alienage (citizenship status)
- Sexual orientation
- 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 LLP are here to help. Call Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP
now to speak with one of our attorneys.