Various federal laws — including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — prohibit companies engaged in interstate commerce from discriminating or tolerating harassment in the workplace. Most states have similar laws that parallel federal statutes and extend the same or similar requirements to smaller companies. However, New York City stands apart in that it has instituted some of the most pro-employee discrimination and harassment laws in the nation to protect workers in the Five Boroughs.
While federal laws prohibit discrimination based on age, disability, race, religion, gender, color or national origin, the laws of the City of New York go further. Not only do they extend these laws to all employers in the city with four or more employees, but they also expand protections to several bases not covered under federal employment discrimination laws:
- Marital status
- Partnership status
- Criminal history
- Status as a domestic violence victim
- Current unemployment
- Sexual orientation
- Citizenship status
- Arrest record
- Status as a sex offense victim
The New York City Commission on Human Rights is responsible for enforcing the various terms of New York’s anti-discrimination laws. Victims of discrimination or harassment who wish to proceed under this law may do so by filing a complaint with the Commission. In some ways, Commission proceedings are similar to that of a court trial, including the calling of witnesses and presentation of evidence. While the Commission is primarily responsible for prosecuting complaints after it has determined they are supported by probable cause, victims of harassment or discrimination who file complaints may also present their own additional evidence and may be independently represented by a New York employment law attorney.