New York City Prohibits Discrimination Against The Unemployed

On March 13, 2013, the New York City Council overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of legislation prohibiting New York City employers from discriminating against unemployed job applicants.  In so doing, New York City joins New Jersey and other jurisdictions that have recently prohibited employers from basing employment decisions on an applicant’s unemployment status.

The new law will go into effect on June 11, 2013 and amends New York City’s broad anti-discrimination laws to include “unemployment” as a protected characteristic.  The new law will apply to employers with four or more employees.  It makes it an unlawful employment practice for such employers to base employment decisions, such as hiring, compensation, or other terms or conditions of employment, on the unemployment status of an applicant.  The law also prohibits employers, regardless of size, from publishing any advertisement for a job that states or indicates current employment is a requirement or qualification for the position.

Under the new law, employers are still permitted to inquire into the circumstances surrounding an applicant’s separation from his or her prior job.  Additionally, provided that there is a substantially job-related reason for doing so, employers will be able to consider an applicant’s unemployment status in making an employment decision.

Employers who violate the new law will be subject to potentially severe penalties.  Individuals who believe they were discriminated against on the basis of their unemployment status may file complaints in either the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”) or in court.  Employers found to have violated the law will be subject to liability for injunctive relief, back pay and front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.  In addition, the Commission can impose civil penalties of up to $250,000, depending on the severity of the employer’s conduct.

New York City employers should review their policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new law.  Additionally,New York Cityemployers should check their job advertisements to make sure those advertisements do not state or imply that current employment is a criteria for a job opening.

As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

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