The New Year brings new protections for Empire State workers


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–When the New Year’s ball dropped in New York City on January 1, several new protections for workers in the state took effect under the State of New York’s Human Rights Law, giving those workers more power to fight their abusive employers.

Among the new protections, the threshold has been lowered for workers to make a case for sexual harassment, and the time allowed to file the complaint has been tripled, from one to three years.

Attorney Joseph Saeli, Jr. of Colligan Law LLP said worker complaints of sexual harassment might have been dismissed by an employer as “he said she said,” but lowering the burden of proof for an aggrieved employee should cause employers to be more proactive, or face the consequences.

“The standard in New York has changed from ‘severe and pervasive,’ to somebody required to work in a work environment where they are subject to inferior terms and conditions of employment which is obviously a much more general and easier to prove standard.”

Saeli added, the cost of coming out on the losing side of a discrimination or harassment complaint is also more severe.

Until the New Year Saeli said, “The main liability would be for economic losses for lost pay and you could get some compensation for pain and suffering.” But now Saeli said, “employees who are successful in proving these cases will be able to recover their attorneys’ fees and punitive damages, also. So that really ups the ante for employers.”

Saeli’s clients are most employers, and he advises them how to adapt to the changes in the law so they don’t end up in court.

Other new laws on the books in New York, according to Saeli, ban employers from asking workers about their wage history, and the new Equal Pay Law.

Saeli writes about the new employment laws that are now in effect. He put the put the highlights in a blog, 2020 Employment Law Update and you can read them by clicking on the link.

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