NYC Outlaws Discrimination Based on Unemployment

A new law that amended the New York City Human Rights law to prohibit discrimination based on employment status is now in effect.

Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s veto, the New York City Council passed the amendment and in effect has made the unemployed in NYC a protected class.  The definition for unemployment is broad; “not having a job, being available for work, and seeking employment.”  And prohibits employers and employment agencies from basing decisions regarding hiring, compensation, or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment because a job applicant is unemployed.  You are also prohibited from advertising a job vacancy that requires a person to be currently employed to qualify for the position.

Unlike other recent state laws that have made “unemployed-need-not-apply” job advertising illegal, New York City’s new law goes further than any employment law in the nation.  It essentially makes one’s unemployment status synonymous with race, age, national origin, gender, disability, and sexual orientation discrimination.

What NYC Employers Can Do

As an employer you may still consider an applicant’s unemployment if there is a significant job-related reason for doing so and you can ask about the circumstances of an applicant’s departure from his or her previous job.  You may also still consider “substantially job-related qualifications” such as: “current and valid professional or occupational license; a certificate, registration, permit, or other credential; a minimum level of education or training; or a minimum level of professional, occupational or field experience.”

Employer’s Potential Liability

If you violate the new law you can be subject to severe penalties.  If someone believes you discriminated against them because of their unemployment status they can file complaints either with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or in court.  If you are found to have violated the law you can be liable for:

Injunctive relief
Back pay and front pay
Compensatory damages
Punitive damages
Attorneys’ fees and costs
Imposed civil penalties of up to $250,000

Protect yourself from litigation and contact an employment defense attorney

Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s objection, this law passed and has the potential to inspire disgruntled job seekers to file lawsuits.  Our skilled attorneys at Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. can help ensure you are in compliance with this new law and any new developments that may occur. If you have any questions about this new law and how it affects your company contact us online or call 718-275-6700 to schedule a consultation.  We can help you stay on top of this new law and any other employment law matters and would be honored to do so.

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