New York employment discrimination laws vs. federal ones

It’s unlawful to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on race, color, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and national origin. New York State and New York City have regulations that are slightly different from federal ones. But are they better? 

Here is what you should know:


At a federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects employees (full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary) but not independent contractors. An employee is a worker whose work does not require a high level of expertise, and the employer controls their work (when, where and how they perform their job). Further, an employer usually furnishes an employee’s tools, equipment and materials.

But as of January 11, 2020, the City Human Rights Law protects independent contractors and freelancers in New York City from employment discrimination and harassment.

This means independent contractors and freelancers have a right to protections that were previously offered to employees only. This includes the right to receive reasonable accommodations for needs related to pregnancy, disabilities, religious observances, lactation and more.

Number of employees 

Title VII applies to private-sector employers and state and local government employers with 15 to 19 employees. This means workers in companies with fewer than 15 employees are not protected by the act.

New York State and New York City statutes apply to employers with four or more employees

Protected characteristics

Federal law prohibits discrimination based on the protected characteristics mentioned at the start of this article. In addition to these characteristics, New York State laws protect employees and applicants from discrimination based on marital status, military status, height, weight, prior arrests and convictions. 

New York State and New York City laws offer better protection against discrimination. If you believe an employer discriminated against you, consider getting legal guidance to protect your rights.       


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