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What Employers Need to Know about New York State’s New Discrimination and Harassment Laws

In 2018, in response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, New York State enacted laws to provide stronger protections against workplace sexual harassment, including mandating that New York employers have a complaint and investigation process and a sexual harassment policy, and provide their employees with training.

On June 19, 2019, the New York Legislature voted to further reform New York law and to extend protections under the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) to employees of all protected categories from all forms of discriminatory harassment in the workplace.  See NYS Assembly Bill No. A8421.  The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported the measure.

Once enacted, some provisions will take immediate effect while others will be phased in over the course of one year.  Here is the timeline for some of the provisions:

NYC Lactation Policies Going into Effect on March 18, 2019

In October 2018, the New York City Council passed two bills, Int. 879-2018 and Int. 905-2018, to supplement existing federal and state laws concerning lactation accommodation policies in the workplace.  Currently, New York State Labor Law Section 2016-c  mandates employers to provide employees with a reasonable number of breaks; and a private sanitary space, other than a restroom, with a chair and flat surface on which to place the breast pump and other personal items, to express breast milk during the workday.

Effective March 18, 2019, Int. 879-2018 requires NYC employers, with four or more employees, to provide lactation rooms[1] with an electrical outlet, as well as refrigerators, in reasonable proximity to work areas, for the purposes of expressing and storing breast milk.  Those employers who cannot provide a lactation room, as required under the new law because of undue hardship, are required to engage in cooperative dialogue with affected employees to find a reasonable, alternative accommodation.

The second measure, Int. 905-2018 requires employers to “establish, and distribute to all new employees, policies describing lactation room accommodations, including the process by which an employee can request such accommodation”.  The policy shall: (1) specify how an employee can submit a request for a lactation room; (2) require the employer to respond to such a request no later than five (5) business days; (3) provide a procedure to follow when two (2) or more individuals need to use the lactation room at the same time,

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