New York City recently enacted a sweeping amendment to its Human Rights Law, which will prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s unemployment. While many states have passed laws banning unemployment discrimination in the wake of the financial crisis, NYC is the first to provide a private cause of action.
The new law defines “unemployment" as “not having a job, being available for work and seeking employment.” It applies to employers who have at least four employees.
Like many anti-discrimination laws protecting the unemployed, the New York City law prohibits advertisements indicating that being currently employed is a requirement or qualification for the job. However, it also prohibits an employer, employment agency, or agent from “basing an employment decision with regard to hiring, compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment on an applicant’s unemployment.”
Despite these broad prohibitions, there are exceptions. Most notably, employers may consider an applicant’s unemployment when there is a substantially job-related reason for doing so. They may also require “substantially job related qualifications,” such as “a current and valid professional or occupational license; a certificate, registration permit or other credential; a minimum level of education or training; or a minimum level of professional occupational or field experience.”
The new law takes effect on June 11, 2013. To avoid facing this new type of discrimination lawsuit, NYC employers are advised to consult with an experienced attorney to make any needed revisions to your hiring policies and procedures.