Dear valued clients and supporters: This month's newsletter will focus on sweeping changes in New York State to 1) Human Rights Law and 2) Landlord-Tenant Law
Expansive Amendments to NYS Human Rights Law
Earlier this year and again this month, Governor Cuomo signed into law a vast array of changes to the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") designed to expand protections for employees against discrimination. The overall goal of the updates is to bring the NYSHRL in line with the more progressive New York City Human Rights Law, directing courts to take a more liberal and broad interpretation of the NYSHRL and lowering the standard of proof for establishing a claim for discrimination or harassment. The statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims was increased from 1 to 3 years and employers are now restricted in their ability to include confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements with employees over sexual harassment claims without the employee's consent. Additionally, under the updated NYSHRL, claimants will be able to recover punitive damages and an award of attorneys' fees against private employers. Finally, non-employees will be able to recover against companies they provide services to for any form of discrimination. Employers should consult with counsel to ensure their policies and procedures are in line with the myriad of changes and employees should learn more about their new protections under state law.
Sea Change In Landlord-Tenant Law
This past June, state lawmakers passed legislation that radically changed a multitude of laws in an effort to provide greater security and protection for tenants. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (HSTPA) not only made rent regulation permanent (the old statute was set to expire), but it also severely limited the ways in which and the amounts that landlord could increase regulated rents. Previously, where the legal rent for a regulated apartment exceeded a certain threshold, landlords could remove the apartment form regulation; this is no longer the case as the "high-rent vacancy" deregulation provision has been eliminated. Additionally, where tenants are receiving "preferential rents" (rents that are lower than the maximum a landlord could legally charge), tenants will now be entitled to pay a preferential rent for the duration of their tenancy, subject to lawful increases. Previously, landlords could raise the rent back up to the legal maximum any time the lease was renewed.