New York State Division of Human Rights awards $2.3 million to women who were victims of sex discrimination by employers, landlords & businesses
√ New guidance and fact sheet on protections for pregnant workers in workplace
Gov. Kathy Hochul today announced the New York State Division of Human Rights has awarded more than $2.3 million in the past year to 126 women who filed sex discrimination claims against employers, landlords and businesses across the state. In addition, the division has published new guidance on workplace protections against pregnancy discrimination.
Hochul announced these actions as the state commemorates Women's Equality Day, which marks 102 years since women in the United States gained the right to vote.
"There's no place for unlawful discrimination or harassment of any form – in the workplace or anywhere else," Hochul said. "We've come a long way in changing workplace culture in government and, as we celebrate Women's Equality Day across the state, we are sending a message that whether in a private setting or in a public sector office, sexual harassment is not OK. In New York state, we are committed to promoting safety, dignity and respect for everyone.”
Sex discrimination has been unlawful in New York since 1964, and every year since, the division has worked to protect the rights of women to participate fully in the life of the state. In addition to obtaining those settlements since Hochul took office in August 2021, the division has published new guidance on pregnancy protections, as well as a factsheet that will alert employees of their rights, and employers of their responsibilities around reasonable accommodation of pregnant workers.
Division of Human Rights Commissioner Maria L. Imperial said, "Gov. Kathy Hochul has made eliminating sex discrimination in New York state a priority and we are proud to further this endeavor. Women's rights are human rights. It's vital that we use every tool at our disposal to ensure equity for all."
Hochul’s team stated, “Two female security officers received settlements of $50,000 and $30,000 each after filing DHR complaints against their employers, alleging that they faced sex discrimination while working at a New York City hospital. The security officers alleged that they were assigned to less-desirable postings, denied equal opportunity for overtime, and denied breaks because their supervisors said female officers were ‘not equal to men.’ The officers also alleged that they experienced retaliation after filing internal complaints.
“A woman who worked at a dental office in Lockport received a settlement of over $70,000 plus $17,000 in legal fees after filing a sexual harassment and disability discrimination complaint against her employer through DHR. The woman, who worked as a hygiene coordinator, alleged that she experienced continual sexual harassment from the dentist who co-owned the practice she worked at. The woman alleged she was terminated after going out on sick leave for three weeks due to what was later found to be a brain tumor.
“A New York City woman, who worked in the billing department of a retail distributor, received a settlement of $75,000 after alleging in a DHR complaint against her employer that she faced racial and pregnancy discrimination. The woman alleged that she faced derogatory comments and harassment from her supervisor for being a single mother after becoming pregnant. She also alleged that her work duties were changed to become less favorable after she came back from maternity leave.
“A Long Island woman received a settlement of $45,000 after alleging that she experienced racist and sexist abuse and harassment while working as an office manager at a construction company in Brookhaven. Despite working for the company productively for several years, she was terminated after going out on disability.
“A Rochester woman who worked as a security officer at a local airport received a settlement of $47,000 after filing a DHR complaint against her employer alleging sex, disability and pregnancy discrimination. The woman was penalized by her employer for taking time off during her pregnancy to deal with connected medical issues, and then terminated after seeking leave to deal with post-partum depression.
“The division's work builds on other recent measures taken by Gov. Hochul to further equality in New York state. In July, she announced that the division launched a statewide, toll-free hotline to connect workers with free guidance from pro-bono attorneys to help them deal with the complex issues of sexual harassment. In May, the division filed a complaint against online retailer Amazon alleging the company engages in discrimination against pregnant workers and workers with disabilities, and has policies that force pregnant and disabled workers to take an unpaid leave of absence rather than allowing them to work with a reasonable accommodation.
This past March, Hochul signed legislation strengthening protections against retaliation for victims of discrimination and making explicit that all public employers are subject to the Human Rights Law.
Hochul’s team said, “New York has the proud distinction of being the first state in the nation to enact a Human Rights Law, affording every citizen ‘an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life.’ The New York State Division of Human Rights is dedicated to eliminating discrimination, remedying injustice, and promoting equal opportunity, access and dignity through enforcement of the Human Rights Law.”