Here are four new laws that were passed in New York that will be taking effect next year. Some of them are the result of years of effort to reform the draconian laws that preceded them, and some of them are just baby steps towards a larger goal. You can judge for yourself.
- DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT: The New York State legislature has made it simpler and easier for employees to sue their employers. The Human Rights Law will no longer require workers to show that discrimination or harassment was “severe and pervasive.” The new law will only require employees to prove they were treated worse than others. Employers will no longer be able to defend themselves by merely asserting that they established structures to correct the problem that the employee failed to utilize. The Human Rights Law will now apply to ALL employers, not just companies with more than four employees. The statute of limitations has been increased from 1 year to 3 years.
- BAIL REFORM: Starting next January, cash bail in New York State for most non-violent misdemeanors and felonies has been abolished. There will be exceptions for domestic abuse, sex offenses, conspiracy to commit some violent felonies, tampering with witnesses and other serious crimes. It’s estimated that more than 35% of New York City’s pretrial population could be released from detainment.
- MARIJUANA TESTING BAN: A New York City law will take effect on May 10th that forbids most businesses and government agencies from requiring job seekers to undergo testing for marijuana use. Exceptions include commercial drivers, construction workers, childcare workers and some health professionals.
- BAN ON PLASTIC BAGS: Beginning March 1, many stores in New York State will not be allowed to give most of their customers single-use plastic bags for free. In New York City stores cannot give bags away for free, but can charge customers 5 cents for every bag they use. There is an exception for customers on public assistance who can be given bags for free. Restaurants and pharmacies are exempted, and so are plastic bags used to hold meat, vegetables and “bulk items” that do not have handles. For some reason, plastic bags with handles to hold clothes are still allowed.