Main Menu

New York State Expands Employment Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

February 4, 2020

On August 20, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law expanding employment protections for victims of domestic violence. The new law became effective as of November 18, 2019.

A “victim of domestic violence” is defined as “any person over the age of sixteen, any married person or any parent accompanied by his or her minor child or children in situations in which such person or such person's child is a victim of an act which would constitute a violation of the penal law.” Such acts include disorderly conduct, harassment, aggravated harassment, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse, stalking, criminal mischief, menacing, reckless endangerment, kidnapping, assault, attempted assault, attempted murder, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, and strangulation. The act must also have been committed by a family or household member, and must result in, or create a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury to the victim or the victim’s child.

Under the amendment, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for employers to:

The amendment also requires employers to reasonably accommodate a victim of domestic violence who must be absent from work, so long as it is not an undue hardship for the employer. However, leave accommodations for domestic violence reasons are limited to the following:

The employer may charge leave accommodations for domestic violence reasons to any paid time off that an employee has accrued or can provide unpaid leave if an employee does not have any paid leave available. Importantly, employers are also required to continue providing health insurance coverage to an employee who must be absent from work due to domestic violence reasons.

Employees who must miss work for domestic violence-related reasons are required to provide advance notice to their employer. If advance notice is not feasible, the employer can require the employee to provide timely certification of the domestic violence-related leave in the form of a police report, court order, medical documentation, or evidence of court appearance. Finally, employers must maintain the confidentiality of any information regarding an employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence to the extent allowed by law.

Employers should review their policies, applications, employee handbook, new-hire notices, and training materials, to ensure that they are consistent with protections for victims of domestic violence under the law. Employers should also ensure that managers and supervisors are trained to properly handle requests for reasonable accommodation from employees for domestic violence-related reasons.

Please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys if you have any questions regarding the new state law or if you need any assistance ensuring that your company policies are complaint with the law.