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Last week, the State Legislature passed bills which make dramatic changes to New York Human Rights Law. The next step is for Governor Cuomo to sign the Bills. This article summarizes what is in store for employers and employees.

The new legislation is an employee-friendly bill that expands existing laws, by providing new remedies for employees who are discriminated against based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected categories. The legislation goes further than Federal law, by changing the minimal level of evidence necessary to prove a discrimination claim, extending discrimination protections to independent contractors, and limiting certain defenses available to employers.

Here are some of the significant changes, if Bill S6577/A8421 is signed into law:

1. All employers, not just those with four or more employees, will be subject to liability under the New York Human Rights Law, based on the expanded definition of “employer” under New York Executive Law §292(5).

2. The legislation extends protection against discriminatory practices to contractors, vendors, consultants, and others who may have been discriminated against in a particular workplace. (Section 296-d of NYHRL only extended protection to non-employees in the event of sexual harassment. This bill extends the protection for other forms of harassment and discrimination).

3. If, after a trial, an employer is deemed liable for employment discrimination, plaintiffs may recovery their attorney’s fees. Presently, employee/plaintiffs may only recover attorney's fees under Federal law.

4. Under this legislation, confidentiality or nondisclosure clauses in settlement agreements would be invalid, “unless the condition of confidentiality is the complainant’s preference.”

5. The legislation prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses to resolve any allegation or claim of discrimination.

6. The statute of limitations for all sexual harassment claims will be extended to three years.

7. The legislation changes the manner in which harassment/hostile work environment claims are proven. An employee or other person covered by NYHRL does not not to prove that the harassment was “severe and pervasive” in order to establish liability. Instead, the complainant must meet a lower standard of proof, including that he or she was subject to “inferior terms, conditions or privileges of employment” based on membership in a protected category (age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, domestic violence victim status, opposing discrimination.

8. An employee's failure to follow the internal complaint procedure, will no longer be a full defense to a lawsuit alleging harassment.

9. The employer may raise a defense that the harassing conduct is so minor that it would be perceived as ‘petty slights or trivial inconveniences” by a “reasonable victim of discrimination.” This alters the common “reasonable person” standard, instead requiring that the conduct be viewed from the shoes of a "reasonable victim.”

10. Employer will be required to distribute a notice containing the employer’s sexual harassment prevention policy, and additional information presented at the annual sexual harassment training.

For more information:

Law Office of Laura Wong-Pan PLLC


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  • Writer's pictureLaura Matlow Wong-Pan

As of December 31, 2018, businesses with 10 employees or less must pay a minimum wage of $13.50/hour, and employers with 11 employees or more must pay minimum wage rise of $15.00 /hour. Minimum wage increased to $12.00/hour for workers in Long Island and Westchester, and $11.10/hour for workers in the remainder of New York State.

Fast food workers, who are subject to a higher minimum wage, were also entitled to a pay increase to $15.00/hour in NYC and $12.75/hour in the rest of the state.

Also as of December 31, 2018, hospitality employers with service employees or food service workers became entitled to an increase in the tip credit that can be taken against an employees’ minimum hourly wage, provided that the weekly average of tips meets the specified hourly tip threshold (for service employees only) and the total of tips received plus wages equals or exceeds the basic minimum wage.

Effective December 31, 2018, the salary basis threshold for executive and administrative employees to be classified as exempt increased to $1,012.50 per week ($52,650 annually) for New York City employers with 10 or fewer employees, and $1,125.00 per week ($58,500 annually) for New York City employers with 11 or more employees.

For employees working for businesses in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, the salary basis threshold increased to $900 per week ($46,800 annually). For all other employers in the state of New York, it rose to $832.00 per week ($43,264 annually). 

If you are not earning at least the correct amount, you should contact your employer, your union or seek legal advice.

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