HR Management & Compliance

Changes In New York State Human Rights Law Take Effect Soon

An amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law that expands the definition of “victim” as it applies to domestic violence is set to take effect November 18.

domestic violenceThe new definition includes any person over the age of 16, any married person, or any parent accompanied by his or her minor child or children in situations in which:

[The] person or [his or her] child is a victim of an act [that] would constitute a violation of the penal law, including, but not limited to acts constituting disorderly conduct, harassment, aggravated harassment, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse, stalking, criminal mischief, menacing, reckless endangerment, kidnapping, assault, attempted assault, attempted murder, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, strangulation, identity theft, grand larceny or coercion.

In addition, the act or acts have resulted in actual physical or emotional injury or created a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to the person or the child, and a family or household member allegedly committed the conduct.

The amendment lists the following discriminatory and unlawful practices:

  • Refusing to hire, license, or employ domestic violence victims or barring, discharging, or discriminating against them in compensation or other terms and conditions of employment;
  • Printing, circulating, or using a job application or advertisement or making prehire inquiries that would express a limitation, specification, or discrimination against an individual’s status as a domestic violence victim (employers may make inquiries, however, about reasonable accommodation requests); and
  • Refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation for time off work unless an undue hardship would result.

The amendment requires employers to provide certain reasonable accommodations to an employee who is known to be a domestic violence victim or have a child who is one (provided the employee isn’t the perpetrator). The accommodation request process is similar to the one followed in disability cases, and some limited inquiry is permitted.

For more information on the amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law, see the September issue of New York Employment Law Letter.

Paul J. Sweeney is an attorney with Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP in Binghamton, New York. He can be reached at