The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is already one of the strongest laws in the nation protecting worker rights. Yesterday the City Council passed amendments making it even more so.
Prior amendments in 2005, known as the “Restoration Act.” made it clear that the NYCHRL was to be interpreted liberally, and not limited by some courts’ narrower interpretations of similar laws, such as Title VII, even though they may have similar language to the NYCHRL. One of yesterday’s amendments adds language stating that “Exceptions to and exemptions from the provisions of this title shall be construed narrowly in order to maximize deterrence of discriminatory conduct.” This would presumably apply to things like the “safe harbor” defense of Sec. 8-107(13)(d), which gives employers a defense to discriminatory conduct committed by an employee, if the employer took certain steps to prevent and promptly investigate complaints of such conduct.
Another amendment repealed the exceptions to the sexual orientation discrimination part of the law. Those exceptions, which applied to only the sexual orientation protections of the NYCHRL, had little practical effect, but were readily understood to be demeaning, particularly the section stating that protecting against sexual orientation discrimination did not “endorse any particular behavior or way of life.”
Finally, the law was amended to provide for attorney’s fees for individuals who choose to bring their cases in the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Previously, attorney’s fees were only available in court actions.
The proposed amendments that effect employment law are attached. The Mayor is expected to sign the legislation soon. Amendments 2016 sexual orientation exceptions repeal