On August 20, 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed A5618/S1040 (the “Amendment”) into law, amending the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) with respect to protections for victims of domestic violence. The Amendment becomes effective November 18, 2019.
The Amendment broadens the definition of “victim of domestic violence” to make it consistent with the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (NY Soc. Serv. L § 459-A). In addition, although the NYSHRL previously prohibited discrimination against victims of domestic violence, the Amendment explicitly adds victims of domestic violence as a protected class under the NYSHRL. Further, the Amendment requires employers to reasonably accommodate victims of domestic violence who must be absent from work “for a reasonable amount of time” to:
- seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence;
- obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center as a result of domestic violence;
- obtain psychological counseling related to domestic violence, including for a child who is a victim of domestic violence;
- participate in safety planning relating to domestic violence; and
- obtain legal services or participate in legal processes relating to an incident of domestic violence.
Employers are not required to provide an accommodation where it would pose an undue hardship. A determination of whether the absence will cause an undue hardship requires an evaluation of factors, such as the size of the employer’s business and the nature of its operation, including the composition and structure of its workforce. Employers may require employees to use any available paid time off during any leave provided as an accommodation.
The Amendment requires an employee to provide the employer with reasonable notice of the need to be absent, if feasible. If advance notice was not feasible, the employee must, upon employer request, provide a certification confirming the need for the time-off accommodation.. A police report, court order or other court document, or document from a medical professional, domestic violence advocate, health care provider, or counselor are acceptable forms of certification. Of note, the Amendment was passed alongside other new laws aimed at offering greater support for victims of domestic violence.