August 09, 2019

New York State's Human Rights Law amended to prohibit employment discrimination because of religious attire or facial hair


On August 9, 2019 New York State's Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation* prohibiting employment discrimination based on religious attire, clothing or facial hair. The new law amends the New York State Human Rights Law to make clear that employers cannot refuse to hire, attain, promote, or take other discriminatory action against an individual for wearing attire or facial hair in accordance with tenets of their religion. 
 
The legislation makes clear the protections of the New York State Human Rights Law, which also prohibits employers from treating applicants or employees differently because of that person's religious beliefs, and it requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious practices. The new law reaffirms the Governor's longstanding commitment to religious inclusion and equality.

The Act amends §296.10(a) of the Executive Law, New York State's Human Rights Law, to read as follows:**
                                                                  
(a) It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer,  or an employee or agent thereof, to impose upon a person as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment, including opportunities for promotion, advancement or transfers, any terms or conditions that would require such person to violate or forego a sincerely held practice of his or her religion, including but not limited to the observance of any particular day or days or any portion thereof as a sabbath or other holy day in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion or the wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion, unless, after engaging in a bona fide effort, the employer demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the employee's or prospective employee's sincerely held  religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, an employee shall not be entitled to premium wages or premium benefits for work performed during hours to which such premium wages or premium benefits would ordinarily be applicable, if the employee is working during such hours only as an accommodation to his or her sincerely held religious requirements. Nothing in this paragraph or paragraph (b) of this subdivision shall alter or abridge the rights granted to an employee concerning the payment of wages or privileges of seniority accruing to that employee.

The amendment takes effect "on the sixtieth day after it shall have become a law."

* Senate 4037, Assembly 4204

** The text set out in blue and underscored is new.

 

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