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Update on Recent Employment Legislation

New York State has recently enacted three new employment-related laws of which employers should be aware. One of the new state laws – paralleling legislation already in effect in New York City – prohibits employers from requesting information regarding salary history from job applicants, or considering an applicant’s salary history in deciding whether to offer employment or the amount of salary to be offered.  The employer also may not retaliate against an applicant for refusing to divulge this information, although an applicant may voluntarily provide the information if he or she is not coerced into doing so.  The law applies both to outside applicants, as well as current employees seeking promotion.  The new statewide legislation will take effect on January 6, 2020.

A second new law strengthens the prohibition against an employer’s paying employees differently based on their membership in a protected class, such as classes based on age, race, sexual orientation, or disability.  As revised, a plaintiff claiming discrimination will need to show that he or she was performing “substantially similar work” as better-paid employees, rather than “equal” work as previously required.  This change will take effect on October 8, 2019.

Finally, the prohibition against race discrimination contained in the Human Rights Law will now prohibit discrimination based on “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture” and “such hairstyles as braids, locks and twists.”   Again, this protection already exists in New York City, but will now be applicable throughout New York State.