On October 13, 2019, New York City enacted Int. 136-A (the “Law”), which greatly expands the scope of the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). The Law grants freelancers and independent contractors the rights that are currently only afforded to employees under the NYCHRL. Mayor de Blasio, returned the bill back unsigned, which means that effective January 11, 2020, these workers will be protected, and have the ability to file charges with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, when they face harassment or discrimination based on their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, religion or status as a victim of domestic violence.

Who Counts as an Employee?

The Law applies to any employer that employs four or more employees at any time during the 12-month period before an alleged discriminatory act. Prior to the Law’s enactment, the NYCHRL only applied to employers that employed four or more “traditional” employees. Following the Law’s enactment, independent contractors, freelancers and interns are considered employees for the purposes of the law. The Law does not include a definition of independent contractor, but more guidance is expected as the effective date draws closer.

Takeaway

The Law has expanded the definition of employee so that employers must ensure that independent contractors and freelancers are afforded all the rights guaranteed by NYCHRL. Employers are advised to determine whether they meet the four-employee threshold under the new criteria set forth in the Law. This expanded definition of employee may require employers to provide freelancers and independent contractors with the same training that their employees are mandated to undergo in accordance with New York City law. Under the Law, employers should include freelancers and independent contractors when determining whether they meet the 15-employee threshold that mandates annual sexual harassment training. As a best practice, human resource managers should be trained on the Law and advised to provide training to freelancers and independent contractors on sexual harassment. Employers should also consider providing freelance employees with handbooks, guides, and other workplace policies that are provided to other employees.

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Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson LLP