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EEOC and NYC Expand Employment Protections

In a major ruling, the EEOC concluded that employers who discriminate against LGBT workers are also in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination "based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin." In another major development, the City of New York enacted a law which limits inquiries employers can make about job applicants' criminal records.

EEOC Ruling

With respect to the EEOC's ruling, some courts had previously ruled that Title VII does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation because it is not specifically mentioned in that law. While there have been some court rulings to the contrary, the EEOC held that Title VII "applies equally in claims brought by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals under Title VII." The ruling further states that: "Interpreting the sex discrimination prohibition of Title VII to exclude coverage of lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of sex inserts a limitation into the text [of the law] that Congress has not included." Thus, the EEOC concluded that "allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex."

Although the EEOC's ruling does not bind federal courts, the courts often defer to federal agencies when they interpret laws that come under their jurisdiction. It should be noted that existing State and City laws already prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

NYC "Fair Chance Act"

Mayor de Blasio recently signed into law the "Fair Chance Act" in order to strengthen provisions of the NYC Human Rights Law that prohibits discrimination based on an individual's record of arrest or criminal conviction. The new law prohibits employers from inquiring about job applicants' criminal records until after they have made a conditional offer of employment to the applicant, and requires employers to provide applicants with a written copy of the inquiry, analysis and supporting documentation. There are exemptions for public and private employers who are required by law to conduct criminal background checks. If, after receiving information regarding an applicant's record, the employer no longer wants to employ the applicant, the employer must explain why and provide a copy of the record. This explanation must also take into account existing New York State law that prohibits discrimination based upon an applicant's criminal record. The position is then held open for three business days so as to provide the applicant with an opportunity to respond.

Should you have any questions on this or other employment-related matters, please contact Mr. Kimler at 516.437.4385, x122, or akimler@vmmlegal.com.