It is well known that New York employers can be held liable for harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Liability for owners, officers, and supervisors, however, is less frequently discussed.

In this post we discuss the potential for personal liability under the New York State Human Rights Law (“State HRL”) and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYC HRL”) and the steps employers should take to protect themselves and their staff.

This conversation is sparked by a recent decision in which a New York court outlined the potential for an owner or officer of a corporate employer to be held strictly liable as an employer under the NYC HRL. Courts can impose strict liability where an employee sufficiently alleges that the owner or officer encouraged, condoned, or approved the discriminatory or harassing behavior underlying the employee’s claim.

Another New York court similarly allowed an employee to make a claims directly against his supervisors where the employee alleged the supervisors aided and abetted the alleged discriminatory behavior in violation of the State HRL.

Given this broad potential for personal liability, New York employers should discuss this risk with owners, officers, and supervisors. Anyone in management potentially is at risk. Importantly, employers have an affirmative duty to train these individuals that they are mandated to report harassment in the workplace.

Employers should provide practical training to their leadership teams to educate them and ensure proper steps are taken when harassment or discrimination is observed or alleged. The Coppola Firm conducts these trainings for employers across New York State.

If you’re an employer looking for assistance in training your management team, contact us. The experienced attorneys at The Coppola Firm would be glad to assist you.

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