An amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) introduced before the City Council this week would add current or prior service in the uniformed services as a protected class under the law. If approved by the Council, the bill would give veterans and active military personnel protection against discrimination in employment, as well as in public accommodations and housing.  The bill would also provide uniformed service members the ability to file claims under the NYCHRL.

Under the amendment, employers would be prohibited from discriminating against any person on the basis of his or her current or past uniformed service by:

  • representing that employment or a position is not available when it is in fact available;
  • refusing to hire or employ or barring or discharging such person; or
  • discriminating against such person in compensation or in the terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

Employment agencies and labor organizations would also be prohibited from discriminating against members of the uniformed service in advertising, recruiting or staffing available positions or with regard to union membership. The bill further states that it would not be an unlawful discriminatory practice to afford a preference or privilege based on uniformed service in employment, housing or public accommodation.

For purposes of the amendment, “uniformed services” includes current or prior service in: (i) the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army or Air National Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Corps, or the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service; (ii) any reserve component of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard; (iii) an organized militia of the state of New York; (iv) any other service designated as part of the uniformed services pursuant to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA); or (v) being listed on the state reserve list or the state retired list as set forth in the New York State Military Law or comparable status for any other state, territory or possession of the United States.

The bill follows legislation signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in December 2015 creating the Department of Veterans’ Services, with the goal of providing veterans access to permanent housing, mental and physical health services, and expanded education and employment opportunities.

The amendment has been referred to the City Council’s Committee on Civil Rights for final consideration.