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NY Adds New Laws for Workers with Harassment Complaints

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed three new laws intended to provide more protection for workers subjected to harassment in their workplaces. One of the new laws expands the definition of “employer” for discrimination liability to include the State of New York, all of its local political subdivisions, elected officials, and members of the judiciary.

The second new law establishes a toll-free hotline for complaints of workplace harassment that will provide counsel and assistance. The New York State Division of Human Rights will operate the hotline during normal business hours and information about the hotline will be included in the materials that employers are required to post. This law also requires the recruitment of experienced attorneys to provide pro bono assistance to individuals calling on the hotline. However, attorneys may not solicit representation of the individuals using the hotline.

Lastly, a new law expands the definition of retaliation. It states:

“Retaliation may include, but is not limited to, disclosing an employee’s personnel files because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden under this article or because he or she has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding under this article, except where such disclosure is made in the course of commencing or responding to a complaint in any proceeding under this article or any other civil or criminal action or other judicial or administrative proceeding as permitted by applicable law.”

The attorney general may initiate an action when they believe unlawful discriminatory retaliation has occurred. The New York legislature has several additional bills it is considering. These bills will impact re-hire provisions in settlement agreements and penalties under non-disclosure/non-disparagement clauses. There is also a proposal to extend the statute of limitations for discrimination claims.