Dear valued clients and supporters: This month's newsletter will focus on 1) new guidance issued on discrimination based on hairstyle in NYC; 2) possible legislation in NYC impacting fast food employers and employees; and 3) immigration status and employment law.
Hairstyle Discrimination Banned in NYC
In February 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued groundbreaking legal guidance advising that employers who have restrictive hairstyle policies are likely violating New York City Human Rights Law's protections against discrimination in the workplace. In conjunction with presenting extensive background information and context, the Commission explained that hairstyle restrictions had a disproportionate impact on non-white ethnic groups who are often required to go so far as to manipulate the natural condition of their hair to be in compliance with work place policies. Extensive guidance is now available on the Commission's website and employers are advised to amend any existing policies accordingly.
Possible protections from termination for fast-food employees
New York City Council introduced a new bill in February which, if passed, will prohibit a fast food employer from laying off an employee without a bona fide economic reason. The legislation defines a “bona fide economic reason” as the full or partial closing of operations or technological or organizational changes to the business resulting in the reduction in the volume of production, sales, or profit. If an employer has a “bona fide economic reason” for a layoff, the layoff must be conducted on a “last in, first out” basis — in reverse order of seniority according to the length of service of employees in the establishment where the termination is to occur. Employees senior in length of service must be retained the longest and reinstated first. The bill specifies how to compute the length of service and accounts for military service, illness, and other absences. This proposed bill will significantly change the "at-will" doctrine, which currently governs the employer-employee relationship in the fast-food industry. We will continue tracking this bill and provide additional details and guidance as it makes its way through the legislative process.
Immigration Status and Employment Law
Many employees who work in the US on a variety of visas often have questions about the impact their immigration status may have on their rights as employees. To address some of these issues, we co-authored an article with our colleague Steve Maggi, Esq (an immigration attorney). We encourage our readers, especially those who are working in the US on a visa or employers who frequently hire foreign workers, to read this article which is now available on our website.