Effect of New York City Humans Rights Law on Sexual Harassment Litigation

Author: Hans & Associates, P.C.

Sexual harassment falls under discrimination, and employers often find themselves treading on eggshells when it comes to sexual harassment.

NYC Human Rights Law

Title 8, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is more comprehensive and restrictive than state or federal anti-discrimination laws. For example, federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees. However, Title 8 applies to NYC businesses with four or more employees.

Recent landmark case ruling

Many court rulings become case law which affects the way courts view and rule on subsequent sexual harassment lawsuits. A case in point is Zakrzewska v. The New School  a landmark case heard by the New York Court of Appeals in 2010. The appellate court’s interpretation of the NYCHRL supplanted an affirmative defense previously used by employers in sexual harassment cases. The affirmative defense allowed employers to avoid liability when employees failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise (supported by rulings in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth). However, in Zakrzewska v. The New School, the court ruled that employers are strictly liable, whether the employee reports a sexual harassment incident to the employer or not. This ruling made the already stiff New York sexual harassment laws more stringent for employers.

Protect your interests

For small and mid-sized NYC business owners, if you have questions about where sexual harassment lines are drawn, consult an experienced New York employment law attorney  about limiting your liability.

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