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NYC Nixes Agreements that Shorten Time to File Discrimination, Violence Claims

New York City skyline, including the Freedom Tower

Effective May 11, New York City now prohibits employers from entering into any type of agreement that shortens the statutory period by which an employee may file an administrative claim or complaint, or civil action, relating to unlawful discriminatory practices, harassment or violence under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

Presently, employees have one year to file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights for an unlawful discriminatory practice or act of discriminatory harassment or violence and three years to file a claim of gender-based harassment. In addition, employees may commence a civil action under the NYCHRL within three years.

What Does the Ordinance Specifically Prohibit?

The new ordinance, which amends New York City Administrative Code Sections 8-109 and 8-502, renders as unenforceable and void—as a matter of public policy—“[a]ny provision of an agreement involving an employer, employment agency or agent thereof pertaining to terms of employment” that purports to shorten the periods in which either a 1) complaint or claim may be filed with the NYC Human Rights Commission or 2) a civil action may be filed in court. Put differently, any provision, term, or language in an employment contract that purports to shorten an employee’s statutory time to file an administrative claim or a civil lawsuit will be deemed void. 

Notably, the ordinance explicitly provides that even if any such provision is included in an employment agreement, it does not “affect the enforceability” of any other provisions contained therein.

When Does the Ordinance Go into Effect?

The law became effective immediately. 

Does the Ordinance Apply Retroactively?

Although the ordinance does not explicitly provide it applies retroactively to existing employment agreements, both the New York Council’s legislative history and reports, and the broad language used in the ordinance, indicate that it was intended to apply to all employment agreements in effect prior to its enactment.   

Recommendations for Employers

Given that the law took effect immediately, companies with employees working in New York City may wish to review all their employment agreements to ensure compliance. Employers should also be aware that any such provisions in existing employment agreements are no longer enforceable, per the ordinance’s legislative history.

Rick Reyes is an attorney with Littler in New York City. Daniel Gomez-Sanchez is an attorney with Littler in Melville, N.Y. © 2024 Littler. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission.


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