Just when you thought you could close the book on a thorny issue involving an employee or ex-employee, New York State steps in and says:
Not. So. Fast.
On November 17, 2023. Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law an amendment to section 297 of the New York Executive Law to extend the statute of limitations for filing discrimination complaints with the Division of Human Rights (DHR) from one year to three years.
What’s this all about? In general, this is about employee claims of discrimination at work. Remember that New York has a very broad set of protected classes – people entitled to the protections of the law – and employers are well-served to learn each and every protected class. In this way, employers can protect themselves. How? Don’t ever make a decision, whether it’s hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, or otherwise, on the basis of a protected class. As an example, you can’t demote an employee who’s an ethic minority because of her status as a minority. Can you demote her? Of course. But you better have a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for doing so or risk a claim against your company.
So what’s changed? Previously, individuals claiming discrimination had only one year to file a complaint with the DHR, which is New York’s watchdog agency. The one-year deadline applied to all discrimination claims (sexual harassment claims have had a three years limitations period for a while).
Now, the statute of limitations for for all types of claims related to alleged discriminatory practices has been expanded to three years. The law takes effect on February 15, 2024, and will apply to all claims of unlawful discriminatory practices that arise on or after the effective date.
What does this mean for employers? The change means that employers can expect a potential rise in workplace discrimination complaints as individuals have more time to speak up. It’s crucial for employers to proactively address potential concerns and work to actively address any discriminatory practices at work.
Consulting with an attorney is highly recommended to develop strategies for handling workplace concerns as well as any future claims. If you have any questions about this or any other employment law issue, reach out to us at 716.839.9700 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.