August 19, 2019 New Legislation Regarding Discrimination Based Upon Race and Religion
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
We are writing to inform you of legislation, which is now in effect, amending the Executive Law (also known as the Human Rights Law) and the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) to prohibit discrimination based upon traits historically associated with race. In addition, effective October 8, 2019, the Human Rights Law will include an expanded definition of prohibited workplace discrimination based upon religion.
Human Rights Law Amendments
The Human Rights Law protects employees and prospective employees from discrimination based upon, among other things, race and religion. Unlawful discrimination based upon race now includes discrimination based upon “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The term “protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, hairstyles such as “braids, locks, and twists.”
Effective October 8, 2019, the Human Rights Law will prohibit an employer from imposing upon a person as a condition of obtaining or retaining employment, including opportunities for promotion, advancement or transfers, any terms or conditions that would require the person to violate or forego a sincerely held practice of his or her religion including, but not limited to, “the wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion.” The law still includes an exception allowing an employer to impose a term or condition that would require the person to violate or forego a sincerely held religious practice if, after engaging in a bona fide effort, the employer demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the individual’s sincerely held religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the employer’s business.
Dignity for All Students Act Amendment
DASA, which applies to public elementary and secondary schools, BOCES and charter schools, prohibits students and employees from harassing or bullying a student on school property or at a school function. DASA also prohibits students and employees from discriminating against a student on the basis of, among other things, the student’s actual or perceived race. Recent legislation, which became effective on July 12, 2019, broadens the definition of “race” to include “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Protective hairstyles include, but are not limited to, hairstyles such as “braids, locks, and twists.”
As a result of this legislation, we recommend that your anti-discrimination policies be revised to ensure that they are consistent with the new prohibitions regarding discrimination based upon race and religion. For public schools, BOCES and charter schools, we also recommend that your DASA policies and any regulations be reviewed to confirm that they address the law’s expanded definition of race.
If you have any questions regarding which policies should be revised, would like assistance with revising your policies or have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Lauren Schnitzer at 631-694-2300.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 2019