New York Employment Law Update – February 2019

New York

New York City Releases New Guidance on Discrimination Based on Hair

In February 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released a legal enforcement guidance about race discrimination on the basis of hair. According to the commission, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) “protects the rights of New Yorkers to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities. For Black people, this includes the right to maintain natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.” The phrase “Black people” includes those who identify as:

  • African;
  • African American;
  • Afro-Caribbean;
  • Afro-Latin-x/a/o; or
  • Otherwise having African or Black ancestry.

According to the guidance, hair-based discrimination implicates many areas of the NYCHRL, including prohibitions against race, religion, disability, age, or gender-based discrimination. The commission’s guidance seeks to highlight the protections available under the NYCHRL for people who maintain particular hairstyles as part of a racial or ethnic identity, or as part of a cultural practice, regardless of the changing nature of these characteristics.

Covered entities with policies prohibiting hairstyles associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group would, with few exceptions, violate the NYCHRL’s protections against race and related forms of discrimination. Additionally, although the guidance focuses on Black communities, these protections broadly extend to other impacted groups including, but not limited to, those who identify as Latin-x/a/o, Indo-Caribbean, or Native American, and also face barriers in maintaining “natural hair” or specific cultural hairstyles.

Read the guidance

Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act

On January 25, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S.B. 1047) enacting the state’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The law expands the state’s current laws by prohibiting employers (along with education institutions, landlords, creditors, and more) from discriminating against individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression. Under the law, gender identity or expression is a person’s actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristic regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth, including, but not limited to, the status of being transgender.

The law is effective February 25, 2019.

Read the press release and S.B. 1047

New York City Protections for Employee Sexual and Reproductive Health Choices

On January 20, 2019, the New York City Council amended the city’s Human Rights Law by adding protections against employment discrimination, harassment, or violence based on an individual’s sexual and reproductive health choices. Under the amendments, sexual and reproductive health decisions are any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided to individuals relating to sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions. Such services include, but are not limited to:

  • Fertility-related medical procedures.
  • Sexually transmitted disease prevention, testing, and treatment.
  • Family planning services and counseling, such as birth control drugs and supplies, emergency contraception, sterilization procedures, pregnancy testing, and abortion.

The law is effective May 20, 2019.

Read the amendments