An Amendment to the NYC Human Rights Law Will Protect Employees from Sexual and Reproductive Health Decision Discrimination

Effective May 20, 2019, an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (the “NYCHRL”) will protect employees from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on their sexual and reproductive health decisions.  The amendment further expands the list of protected categories under the NYCHRL, and it applies to New York City employers with four or more employees.

Under the NYCHRL, “sexual and reproductive health decisions” are defined as “any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided to individuals relating to their sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.”  These services include, but are not limited to, fertility-related medical procedures; sexually transmitted disease prevention, testing, and treatment; and family planning services and counseling, such as birth control drugs and supplies, emergency contraception, sterilization procedures, pregnancy testing, and abortion.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”) will enforce the law.  An employee may either file a complaint with the Commission within one year of the alleged violation or commence an action in court within three years of the alleged violation.  Under the NYCHRL, the Commission may impose civil penalties for violations, with greater penalties of up to $250,000 available for willful, wanton, or malicious acts.  Employees who file actions in court may seek punitive and compensatory damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

Employers should prepare for the amendment to the NYCHRL by revising the equal employment opportunity statements and policies in their handbooks, employment applications, and any other documents listing the protected categories under the NYCHRL to include “sexual and reproductive health decisions” as a protected category.  Employers should also train human resources personnel, supervisors, and managers on any new policies and practices related to the law.

To learn more about how to prepare your organization for compliance with the law, contact Laura L. Spring, J.D. at CCBLaw.