Women's employment rights are one of our primary areas of focus at D'Orazio Peterson. As a result we were delighted to learn of Governor Cuomo's recent signing of a number of bills within the Women's Equality Agenda. These bills, while not perfect, extend some very important protections to women in the workplace.
The new laws impact a number of areas. As they apply to Women's Employment Rights, they include:
1) Pay Equality: a law limiting the “loophole” which allowed employers to prohibit employees from discussing salaries with one another. Employees will be allowed to discuss salaries without fear of employer retaliation, and the law increases damages in the case of employers who willfully violate the law.
2) Sexual Harassment: Protecting women who work for any employer in the state from sexual harassment. It may seem like common sense, but up until now employers with under four employees were not “covered” under the New York State Human Rights Law – the law that prohibits, among other things, sexual harassment in the workplace. This has now been modified to cover employers of any size.
3) Sex Discrimination: Allows recovery of attorneys fees to successful plaintiffs in sex discrimination cases. This is an important change. Previously successful plaintiffs in New York sex discrimination lawsuits – contrary to Federal Law – were not able to recover attorneys fees as an element of their damages. They now can. This allows law firms – like ours – to accept cases with lower damages but severe wrongdoing, because we know that if successful the client will receive a separate award for attorneys fees.
4) Pregnancy Discrimination: One of the new laws requires employers to perform what is known as a “reasonable accommodation” analysis for pregnant women who need pregnancy associated job modifications in the workplace. This will also go a long way towards protecting the rights of pregnant women, by forcing employers to consider whether a small modification would really impact their business before simply denying it outright.
It is good to see New York coming along on the issue of women's rights in the workplace. We will see how these laws ultimately play out in the world of employment discrimination, but for now this is a good start.
If you have questions about a women's employment law issue give us a call. We're always happy to help.