• "Unemployed" Becomes Protected Class in New York City
  • April 16, 2013
  • Law Firm: Clifton Budd DeMaria LLP - New York Office
  • As of June 11, 2013, New York City employers will have to be more cautious when they publish job advertisements and make hiring decisions. New York City recently passed a law that goes into effect on June 11. Under the new law “unemployed” is now a protected characteristic, joining the long list of characteristics protected by the New York City Human Rights Law. The new law restricts what an employer can consider when hiring an employee and the content of any advertisements it publishes seeking applicants. New York City employers should review their hiring process, including related documents and forms, to ensure that they will still be compliant after this law goes into effect.

    The new law’s prohibition on making employment decisions based on unemployed status applies to employers in New York City with four or more employees. The law prohibits covered employers from making an employment decision based on an applicant’s unemployed status. An applicant is considered unemployed when he or she does not have a job, but is available for, and seeking, employment.

    This new protected classification will not prevent an employer from considering an applicant’s unemployment if there is a substantially job-related reason for doing so. And employers will continue to be able to consider other job-related qualifications such as a required license, minimum level of education, or minimum level of experience. Nor will the law prevent an employer from asking about the circumstances surrounding the applicant’s separation from prior employment. Employers can also give priority to current employees when hiring.

    The law also prohibits all employers, regardless of size, from placing a job advertisement that states that current employment is a job qualification or restricts unemployed applicants from consideration.

    Similar to other forms of discrimination, if an individual believes they have been aggrieved they can file a lawsuit in court or a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. If they prevail, they can obtain monetary damages, injunctive relief, and other remedies, including civil penalties.

    In passing this legislation, New York City joins other States, such as New Jersey, that restrict what an employer can publish in a job advertisement related to unemployment status. New Jersey, though, does not permit aggrieved individuals to sue. Instead, New Jersey has civil penalties for employers that violate its law.