Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced today the Assembly will pass a package of legislation that would expand civil rights protections in schools and protect New Yorkers from discrimination and harassment.
“The Assembly Majority has long been committed to ensuring that New Yorkers are able to live a life free from harassment and discrimination,” said Speaker Heastie. “The bills we will pass today will help us achieve that goal and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”
“Every New Yorker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Assemblymember Michele Titus, chair of the Governmental Operations Committee. “At a time when many Americans feel vulnerable to discrimination and harassment, today’s legislation will help deliver equal protection under the law.”
One bill included in the package would establish a model policy and model training program to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, military status, familial status, marital status, predisposing genetic characteristics or domestic violence victim status (A.5976, Wright). The legislation would also:
- Require businesses submitting bids to the state for goods or services to have a written policy on discrimination prevention;
- Prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses related to discrimination in the workplace;
- Require an employee to personally reimburse a public entity within 90 days of the public entity’s payment of an award for a discrimination claim;
- Expand the Human Rights Law to certain non-employees in the workplace;
- Authorize the attorney general to bring an action or prosecute cases of discrimination; and
- Expand the provisions of the Human Rights Law to all employers in the state.
“Workplace discrimination is toxic and has no place in New York,” said Assemblymember Tremaine Wright. “Today’s legislation will establish a mechanism to help prevent workplace discrimination, and to ensure people and organizations have the tools they need to appropriately handle discrimination when it occurs.”
Currently, the New York State Human Rights Law affirms that an individual has the right to obtain an education without prejudice and prohibits harassment, bullying or other discrimination. However, a New York Court of Appeals decision determined the protection only applies to private institutions, excluding thousands of New Yorkers that attend public schools. Today’s package includes legislation that would extend the Human Rights Law’s anti-discrimination provisions to students who attend public schools, BOCES, public colleges and public universities (A.3425, Dilan).
“As legislators, we have a responsibility to ensure that every student has access to an education that is free of discrimination, harassment and bullying,” said Assemblymember Erik Dilan. “At a time when intolerance and discrimination are on the rise, this legislation would ensure that public school students are protected by our Human Rights Law.”
Another measure scheduled to pass today would clarify that the wearing of any attire, clothing or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of an individual’s religion is protected under the Human Rights Law (A.4204, Weprin).
“With hate crimes on the rise, we must make it clear that New York will not tolerate any form of discrimination against people of faith,” said Assemblymember David Weprin. “This legislation would ensure that no one is ever forced to choose between adhering to their religious beliefs and earning a living.”
For years, the Assembly Majority has fought for protections and solutions that support women and families across the state. Today’s package includes legislation that would clarify that lactation is a pregnancy-related condition entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace (A.5975, Reyes).
“Women are an integral part of our state’s work force and should be guaranteed the right to use break time at work to provide breast milk for their newborn child,” said Assemblymember Karines Reyes. “The clarification provided in this legislation would protect breastfeeding women by ensuring employers are following our state’s Human Rights Law.”