About a year ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law several updates to the New York Human Rights Law to strengthen protections against discrimination and harassment. For example:

  • The standard to establish a claim of harassment was reduced from having to be “severe and pervasive” in order to succeed on a claim to any harassment that exceeds petty slights or trivial inconveniences.
  • The law now applies to all employers within the State, regardless of how many employees on staff.
  • The Faragher/Ellerth defense was eliminated, meaning that even workers who never complained before now can bring suit.
  • Domestic workers now are protected from harassment on all bases.

With all these changes, there were various effective dates. One major change recently came into effect on August 12, 2020 – the statute of limitations to file an employment-related sexual harassment claim with the Division of Human Rights was extended from one year to three years.

What’s a statute of limitations? Simply put, i’s the deadline for bringing a claim in a court or before a government agency.

What this change does: It extends the statute of limitations to bring a sexual harassment claim in the employment context. But it only applies to bad acts that occur after August 12, 2020. Discriminatory acts that happened before that date are governed by the old one-year statute of limitations if for a filing with the Division of Human Rights.

What this change doesn’t do: This change doesn’t apply to sexual harassment claims that are unrelated to employment. It also doesn’t apply to older acts. Those earlier instances of sexual harassment in the workplace still are subject to the one-year statue of limitations. Importantly, this also doesn’t change the statute of limitations for bringing a claim in New York State Supreme Court. That always has been – and remains – three years from the complained-of behaviors.

Keeping track of all of these changes can be confusing. If you or your business need help understanding these changes, The Coppola Firm can help. And if you’ve been sexually harassed at work, we can help you understand your claim, the law, and your options. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to guide you through the ever-changing field of employment law.