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What does the NYC Commission on Human Rights cover?

New York City has its own commission on human rights, which is in place to provide an added layer of protection in addition to federal protections already in place for those in protected classes. Protected people under the NYC Commission on Human Rights are supposed to work in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and acts of retaliation based on their protected status.

The law covers a number of circumstances. Discriminatory acts are prohibited in all aspects of employment, including the hiring and firing processes, interviews, promotions, disciplinary actions, salary determination and the awarding of benefits and bonuses. Employers are specifically prohibited from asking questions during an interview regarding the applicant's protected status, making statements that are discriminatory or circulating job announcements that sound as if a preference for or against a certain class of individuals is being given.

Employers must also make reasonable accommodations for their employees' religious observations, but they are not required to pay the employee for leave needed to attend religious functions. Additionally, sexual harassment based on gender is prohibited. Such harassment can include jokes, sexual comments, obscene pictures, graffiti, sexual gestures and inappropriate touching. Finally, when an employee makes a complaint or stands up against harassment or a perceived discriminatory practice, the law prohibits the employer from retaliating against the individual for filing or making the complaint. An employer who retaliates can face additional penalties for doing so.

Although laws have been in place for some time that prohibit employee discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation, discrimination still continues to occur at workplaces around New York. Those who believe they have been the victim of workplace discrimination could seek help from an employment law attorney, who could gather evidence, identify an employer's violations of NYC and federal law, help file the complaint and make certain it is submitted well within the required statute of limitations.

Source: NYC Commission on Human Rights, "Employment", November 21, 2014

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