New York State Assembly Passes “Patriot Plan,” Prohibiting Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Military Status
On June 20, 2003, the New York State Assembly approved a comprehensive package of bills, known collectively as the “Patriot Plan,” that would extend to military personnel the protection of the State’s Human Rights Law by prohibiting employment discrimination (as well as other forms of discrimination) on the basis of “a person’s participation in the military service of the United States or the military service of the state, including but not limited to, the armed forces of the United States, the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia, the New York Guard, and such additional forces as may be created by the federal or state government as authorized by law.”
Prior to the passage of these bills, the New York State Human Rights Law prohibited discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, marital status, genetic predisposition or carrier status, and, most recently, sexual orientation. If Governor Pataki signs these bills as expected, “military status” will be added to the categories protected by the Human Rights Law.
When the Patriot Plan becomes law, New York will be the 27th state to enact such protections for military personnel. Prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of military status exist in some form in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, as well as in Puerto Rico. Employment discrimination on the basis of membership in federal military service has been prohibited by federal law since the 1994 enactment of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”).
In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of military status, the Patriot Plan also expands the supplemental military leave program established after September 11, 2001, and provides to military personnel and their families a range of benefits, including low-interest loans, college scholarships, and some insurance protections. These benefits will be available to those New Yorkers who are in the federal armed services, and to those in the State’s military.