New York City Expands Employee Protections Under the NYC Human Rights Law


New York City recently enacted two amendments to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which will go into effect later this year and expand employee rights under the law.

 Amendment to Definitions of Sexual Orientation and Gender

 The first amendment expands the definitions of "sexual orientation" and "gender" under the NYCHRL and will take effect May 11, 2018. Under the amendment, "sexual orientation" will be defined as "an individual’s actual or perceived romantic, physical or sexual attraction to other persons, or lack thereof, on the basis of gender." The amendment specifically states that "[a] continuum of sexual orientation exists and includes, but is not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality."

 The amendment also revises the definition of "gender" to include "actual or perceived sex, gender identity, and gender expression including a person's actual or perceived gender-related self-image, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristic, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth."

Amendment to Employer Obligations Concerning Accommodation Requests

 The second amendment to the NYCHRL requires employers and places of public accommodation to engage in a cooperative dialogue with individuals who may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the NYCHRL. This amendment becomes effective on July 18, 2018.

 Under the amendment, employers in NYC will be required to engage in a cooperative dialogue with a person who requests, or who the employer has notice may require, an accommodation for:

  • religious needs;

  • a disability;

  • pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition; or

  • needs as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking.

 Significantly, the amendment requires employers to provide the individual requesting an accommodation a written final determination identifying any accommodation that has been granted or denied. This written final determination may only be provided after the employer has engaged, or attempted to engage, in the cooperative dialogue.

It is important to note that an employee does not have to request an accommodation in order for an employer's obligation to engage in a cooperative dialogue to be triggered. That obligation will also be triggered if the employer has "notice" that an accommodation may be required.

 Employers in New York City should review and update, as necessary, their policies and practices to ensure compliance with these amendments. If you have any questions about your business's employment policies, please contact us at 646) 503-5358 or