New York City Human Rights Law

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is a New York city statute that prohibits employment discrimination based on a wide variety of protected characteristics, including actual or perceived age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, pregnancy, disability, marital status, partnership status, caregiver status, sexual orientation, uniformed service, alienage or citizenship status, and previous arrest or conviction record.  The statute also bars retaliation against employees for asserting their rights under the statute.  

The NYCHRL applies to employers throughout the city of New York (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island) with at least 4 employees (but regardless of size for sexual harassment claims), including the city government, but not the state and federal governments.  Unlike Title VII, individual business owners and supervisors may be held liable under the NYCHRL.

With respect to disability discrimination, the statute defines “disability” more broadly than the ADA, as “any physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment, or a history or record of such impairment.”  N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(16).

The NYCHRL provides that it “shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of the uniquely broad and remedial purposes thereof, regardless of whether federal or New York State civil and human rights laws, including those laws with provisions comparably-worded to provisions of this title have been so construed.”  N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-130.  As a result, the NYCHRL is interpreted and applied by state and federal courts in a manner that is even more favorable for employees than comparable federal anti-discrimination laws.  

If an employee proves discrimination in violation of the NYCHRL, the remedies available under the statute include hiring, reinstatement, promotion, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.

An employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the NYCHRL may either file a complaint with the New York City Human Rights Commission, which will investigate and decide the claim, or file a lawsuit directly in court, but not both.  This is an “election of remedies” provision and, with few exceptions, strictly limits the employee’s choice of which remedial path to pursue.  There is a one-year statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and a three-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in court.

Because the rules and procedures under the NYCHRL are complicated, an employee should discuss his or her complaints of discrimination promptly with a qualified employment lawyer.

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