On March 13, 2013, the New York City Council overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of legislation prohibiting New York City employers from discriminating against unemployed job applicants.  In so doing, New York City joins New Jersey and other jurisdictions that have recently prohibited employers from basing employment decisions on an applicant’s unemployment status.

The new law will go into effect on June 11, 2013 and amends New York City’s broad anti-discrimination laws to include “unemployment” as a protected characteristic.  The new law will apply to employers with four or more employees.  It makes it an unlawful employment practice for such employers to base employment decisions, such as hiring, compensation, or other terms or conditions of employment, on the unemployment status of an applicant.  The law also prohibits employers, regardless of size, from publishing any advertisement for a job that states or indicates current employment is a requirement or qualification for the position.

Under the new law, employers are still permitted to inquire into the circumstances surrounding an applicant’s separation from his or her prior job.  Additionally, provided that there is a substantially job-related reason for doing so, employers will be able to consider an applicant’s unemployment status in making an employment decision.

Employers who violate the new law will be subject to potentially severe penalties.  Individuals who believe they were discriminated against on the basis of their unemployment status may file complaints in either the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”) or in court.  Employers found to have violated the law will be subject to liability for injunctive relief, back pay and front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.  In addition, the Commission can impose civil penalties of up to $250,000, depending on the severity of the employer’s conduct.

New York City employers should review their policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new law.  Additionally,New York Cityemployers should check their job advertisements to make sure those advertisements do not state or imply that current employment is a criteria for a job opening.