On March 16, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law three bills aimed at workplace harassment and discrimination.
The first bill, S.812B/A.2035B, will require the New York State Division of Human Rights to establish a toll-free confidential hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment. The goal being to connect victims of workplace sexual harassment, who may not necessarily understand their rights, with pro bono attorneys who can assist them. The bill goes into effect on July 14, 2022.
The second bill, S.3395A/A.2483B, will make the State of New York and any city, county, town, village, or other political subdivision of New York State subject to the provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law. The bill is meant to clarify that all employers, including public ones, can be liable for harassment and discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law. The bill is effective immediately.
The third bill, S.5870/A.7101, will define retaliatory actions under the New York State Human Rights Law to specifically include the release of personnel records to discredit victims of workplace harassment/discrimination. The bill is in response to former Governor Cuomo’s 2021 release of the personnel records of a former staffer who had accused him of sexual harassment. This bill, too, is effective immediately.
This new legislation reinforces what has long been the law in New York: that employers, both public and private, must be cognizant of their employees’ civil rights in how they react to allegations of harassment or discrimination.