New York City Human Rights Law Amendments for Contractors and Freelancers

November 18th, 2019 | Angela Preston, Senior Vice President and Counsel, Corporate Ethics and Compliance

The Statue of Liberty, NYC

On October 13, 2019, New York City enacted Int. No. 136-A (the “Amendment”) which extends the protections of the NYC Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) to independent contractors and freelancers. Effective January 11, 2020, the Amendment will allow approximately 1.3 million additional workers to file discrimination, harassment, and retaliation complaints.

The protections are extended by expanding the NYCHRL’s definition of “Employer.” The Amendment clarifies that contractors, freelancers, interns, and employed family members must be counted in this calculation. The previous definition covered those who employ four (4) or more individuals (with exceptions for sexual harassment claims, which apply regardless of the number of employees). The Amendment further resolves that if four (4) or more individuals were employed at any point in the 12 months prior to the start of a discriminatory practice until end of the discriminatory practice, the definition of “employer” is satisfied.

The NYCHRL prohibits discrimination in the following areas: Hiring, firing, and work assignments as well as salary, benefits, promotions, performance evaluations, discipline, and any decisions that affect the terms and conditions of employment.

Protected classifications under the NYCHRL include age, alienage or citizenship status, arrest or conviction record, caregiver status, color, credit history, disability, gender, gender identity, marital or partnership status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion/creed, salary history, sexual orientation, sexual and reproductive health decisions, status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking, unemployment status, and status as a veteran or active military service member.

Employers should review their background screening processes and policies to mitigate risks associated with discriminatory preemployment practices with independent contractors and freelancers. The Amendment is not explicit about the applicability of Fair Chance, restrictions on credit checks, and salary history inquiries. Employers should consult with their legal counsel about how to proceed on these subjects.

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