Employment Law Alert: New York City Has Enacted a New Law Protecting Unemployed Individuals From Discrimination

       On March 13, 2013 the New York City Council, overriding Mayor Bloomberg’s veto, passed a far-reaching law prohibiting discrimination against a job applicant because the applicant is unemployed. 

The Basics

The new law, which amends the New York City Human Rights Law, adds unemployment as a protected characteristic and will go into effect on or about June 13, 2013.  This new law applies to employers with four or more employees (individual independent contractors can be counted as employees for purposes of this threshold number).

Under the new law, an employer is prohibited from basing an employment decision on an individual’s unemployment status.  In addition, under the new law, an employer may not state in an advertisement for a job vacancy in New York City that current employment is a requirement or qualification or that unemployed individuals will not be considered.  An individual is deemed unemployed under the new law if he does not have a job, but is available for work and seeking employment.

The Exceptions

As with other anti-discrimination provisions, the new law does not prohibit an employer from considering an applicant’s unemployment status for a substantially job-related reason.  Thus, employers can still require that job applicants have a current and valid occupational or professional license, certificate, permit, or other credential, or a minimum level of education, training, or experience.  Such requirements can also be included in advertisements for a job vacancy.  In addition, employers are permitted to ask about the circumstances surrounding an applicant’s separation from his or her prior employment.  Finally, the new law does not prohibit employers from filling job vacancies pursuant to a Collective Bargaining Agreement or from deciding that internal applicants will be considered first.

The text of the legislation can be found at the New York City Council’s website at|Text|&Search=Int+0814-2012.

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