24 Mar

March 2021 New York HR Legal Updates

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New York Passes COVID-19 Vaccination Paid Leave

Update Applicable to:
All New York Employers.

What happened?
The New York State Senate unanimously voted 62-0 on March 1, 2021, to grant both private and public employees up to four hours of paid leave per injection to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

What are the details?
The bill amends the New York Labor Law (NYLL) to add Section 196-C, requiring that all private employers provide their employees with a “sufficient period of time,” up to four hours, of paid leave to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The leave is four hours per injection, meaning employees who receive a two-dose vaccine can potentially be entitled to up to eight hours of paid time off under the law. The leave cannot be charged against any other leave to which the employee is entitled, including the recently enacted paid sick leave requirements. Employees may also use the

The entire period of leave must be provided at an employee’s regular rate of pay. The requirements of the law, however, can be waived by a collective bargaining agreement if it explicitly references NYLL 196-C. The bill also forbids an employer from discriminating against, retaliating against, or interfering with an employee exercising their rights under the law, including requesting paid leave to be vaccinated.

The requirement to provide this leave will expire on December 31, 2022.

The information was provided by Fisher Phillips and Littler Mendelson P.C., whose articles can be found here and here, respectively.

What do employers need to do?
New York employers should read the above information and update their workplace leave policy to accommodate employee’s vaccine needs.

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New York City Issues Final Rule Regarding Religious and Race Hairstyle Discrimination

Update Applicable to:
All New York City Employers.

What happened?
Effective January 30, 2021, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”) amended Title 47 of the Rules of the City of New York to provide an example and add exceptions to clarify protections based on race, creed, and religion, related to hair textures, hairstyles, including the use of head coverings, and hair lengths, which are commonly or historically associated with a particular race, creed, or religion.

What are the details?
This Final Rule codifies much of the Commission’s enforcement guidance that was released in 2019 regarding race-based hairstyle discrimination. The Final Rule also sought to codify that hair textures, hairstyles, head coverings, and hair length can be elements of an individual’s religious practices such that discrimination based on hair can function as a proxy for religious discrimination and constitute a form of unlawful stereotyping.

The Final Rule provides that, while a “legitimate health or safety concern” can provide a defense against a discrimination claim, “speculative health or safety concerns may not be used as a pretext for religious discrimination.”  Therefore, the Commission will consider the following factors in determining whether a restriction or prohibition constitutes a pretext for discrimination or is based on legitimate health or safety concerns:

  • the nature of the articulated health or safety concern;
  • whether the restriction or prohibition is narrowly tailored to address the concern;
  • the availability of alternatives to the restriction or prohibition; and
  • whether the restriction or prohibition has been applied in a discriminatory manner.

Notwithstanding the possible defense for health or safety concerns, the Final Rule unequivocally states that “it is not a defense that a restriction or prohibition is based on customer preference or based on a perception that a person’s hair is ‘unprofessional,’ a ‘distraction,’ or inconsistent with a covered entity’s image.”  Thus, the Commission rejects the notion that a “professional image” can serve as an undue hardship defense against a religious discrimination claim based on religious hairstyle or head coverings.  The Commission further rejects “trivial or minor losses of efficiency” as a possible undue hardship defense in this context.

More details about the final rule may be found here.

What do employers need to do?
New York City employers should review the above information and update any applicable workplace practices that may violate this final ruling.

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