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The New York State Human Rights Law: Your Rights

New York State’s anti-discrimination laws are among the most powerful in the United States. The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) provides protections against discrimination and harassment that extend far beyond traditional employer/employee relationships. In 2019, the New York State Legislature strengthened and expanded our State’s prohibitions against discrimination and harassment. The employment lawyers at Manhattan’s Rapaport Law Firm have represented plaintiffs in New York since 1995. We take professional pride in our experience and knowledge of New York State and City employment and discrimination laws.

Covered Employers

Since 2020, the NYSHRL applies to all employers, in New York, regardless of an employer’s size. Previously, many of the NYSHRL’s workplace protections only applied to employers with four or more employees.

Workers Protected By the NYSHRL

Many people incorrectly assume that the NYSHRL only protects traditional “employees.”  This is not the case. The NYSHRL protects many individuals whose status is not that of a traditional employee, including interns, independent contractors, consultants and people who provide services under a contractual relationship.  Simply put, an employer cannot evade compliance with the NYSHRL by arguing that someone is an independent contractor, rather than an employee.  In addition, domestic workers (regardless of whether they live in their employer’s residence) are protected against harassment.  The NYSHRL also prohibits discrimination against job applicants.

Prohibited Practices

The NYSHRL prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, or status as a victim of domestic violence. The term “discrimination” is broadly defined.  Discrimination can take the form of refusing to hire someone, or discharging them.  But it extends far beyond hiring and firing.  Unlawful discrimination can also take the form of paying less compensation, assigning less favorable job duties, and countless other acts that adversely affect someone’s terms and conditions of employment.

The NYSHRL’s Protections Extend Far Beyond the Workplace.

The NYSHRL prohibits discrimination and adverse treatment in a wide variety of non-employment contexts. For example:

  • Training Programs. It is unlawful to
    “deny to or withhold from any person because of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, age, disability, familial status, or marital status, the right to be admitted to or participate in a guidance program, an apprenticeship training program, on-the-job training program, executive training program, or other occupational training or retraining program.”  Executive Law § 296 1-a(b)
  • Public Accommodations. The NYSHRL’s anti-discrimination protections also extend to places of public accommodation, which include virtually every type of establishment open to the public, such as health clinics and hospitals, hotels, theatres, public and government buildings, restaurants, bars, and retail stores.
  • Housing Accommodations. It is unlawful to refuse to sell or lease housing accommodations or commercial space on the basis of someone’s protected classification, such as race, religion or national origin, sex, age disability or marital status, to name just a few of the protected classifications.

In the City of New York, the New York City Human Rights Law provides additional protections. If you have experienced discrimination or harassment in New York, you have powerful rights.  The employment lawyers at Manhattan’s Rapaport Law Firm have vigorously represented employees and other victims of harassment and discrimination for more than 25 years.

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