New York Expands Employment Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

Victims of Domestic ViolenceEarlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 5618, amending the New York Human Rights Law by adding victims of domestic violence as a protected class. Employers with four or more employees must allow employees who are victims of domestic violence time off to receive medical attention, access victim services, attend counseling, relocate or plan for relocation or make court appearances. The new law goes into effect November 18, 2019.

Under the amended New York Human Rights Law, an employer cannot refuse to hire or discharge someone because he or she is a victim of domestic violence. An employer cannot discriminate against a victim of domestic violence in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Furthermore, the amended law prohibits an employer from printing or circulating any statement, advertisement or publication that expresses any limitation, specification or discrimination in hiring based on domestic violence victim status.

In addition, employers must grant time off to employees who are victims of domestic violence to:

  • seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence;
  • obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center;
  • obtain psychological counseling;
  • participate in safety planning to increase safety from future incidents of domestic violence; or
  • obtain legal services, assisting in the prosecution of the offense, or appearing in court in relation to the incident(s) of domestic violence.

Employers are not required to provide an accommodation if it causes an undue hardship. An employee is responsible for providing the employer with advance notice of the absence. If an advance notice cannot be provided, the employer may require a certification, such as:

  • a police report;
  • a court order;
  • other evidence from the court or prosecuting attorney; or
  • documentation from a medical professional, domestic violence advocate, health care provider, or counselor.

Employers must maintain confidentiality of any information regarding an employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence. During the absence(s), employees are entitled to continuation of existing health insurance coverage. To stay compliant with the new law, employers are advised to review their employment policies.

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