NYS Human Rights Law Provides for Punitive Damages in Certain Employment Cases

Effective October 11, 2019, the New York State Human Rights Law permits an award of punitive damages in certain employment discrimination cases.

The relevant section is codified at NYS Executive Law ยง 297(4)(c), which provides:

If, upon all the evidence at the hearing, the commissioner shall find that a respondent has engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this article, the commissioner shall state findings of fact and shall issue and cause to be served on such respondent an order, based on such findings and setting them forth, and including such of the following provisions as in the judgment of the division will effectuate the purposes of this article: … (iv) awarding of punitive damages, in cases of employment discrimination related to private employers … to the person aggrieved by such practice …

Previously, punitive damages were available under this section in cases of housing discrimination only. This change is among others that have been implemented to bolster rights of victims of employment discrimination under New York State law. (Punitive damages have long been available under the comparatively broader New York City Human Rights Law.)

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