Hold on to your hats employers: Unemployment discrimination becomes illegal in New York City

As of, June 11, 2013, a new law went into effect that makes discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed a violation of human rights.  Violations of this law will be punished the same way that discriminating against job applicants based on race, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any other category protected by the NYC human rights law.

With the new law in place, people who believe they have been discriminated against because of their unemployment status can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or can sue you in court.  Employers found in violation of the law can be found liable for:

  • Injunctive relief
  • Back pay
  • Front pay
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs
  • Civil fines up to $250,000

How the new law affects you

The new discrimination law is applicable to employment agencies, employers with four or more employees and includes independent contractors who do not have their own employees.

The new law prohibits you from:

Basing hiring,pay and benefits, terms, conditions, or other employment privileges on a job seeker’s employment.

Advertising a job (whether in print or electronically) that says being currently employed is a requirement or qualification for the position, or that unemployed job applicants will not be considered.

However, employers may still consider job-related qualifications including:

  • Professional or occupational license
  • Certification
  • Registration
  • Permits or other credentials
  • Required level of education or training
  • Level of professional, occupational or field experience

You may also ask about the reasons your applicant left his or her previous job.  And you are not forbidden from determining that only applicants already employed by you should be considered for the position, compensation, or privileges (hiring from within).

Steps you can take to protect your company

  • One of the most difficult things for employers is navigating the many new regulations and laws that go into effect, often without notice.  And navigating this new job discrimination law may require the assistance of a skilled NYC employment law attorney.  However you can take a few steps right now that may help, such as:
  • Review your job ads for objectionable language relative to the new law.  For example, an ad stating, “experience in the last six months required,” could be a red flag.
  • Tell your human resources personnel they must not automatically eliminate candidates because they are currently unemployed.  Also, check your website and printed materials for similarly expressed concepts and remove or rewrite the language.
  • Review job application forms and interview questions regarding employment status for prohibited language and correct them.

Talk to an employment law attorney today

Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. can answer your questions regarding the new human rights law.  We can help you craft and change your policies so you are in compliance with the new law and other employment law compliance issues.

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