Rozic, Hoylman-Sigal, Fernandez Discrimination and Harassment Reforms Bills Approved by Governor Hochul

New laws extend statute of limitations for unlawful discriminatory cases and ban liquidated damages in sexual harassment claims

New York, NY – Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law two bills sponsored by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and State Senators Nathalia Fernandez and Brad Hoylman-Sigal that will reform current legal practices and promote transparency in discrimination and harassment cases. The first bill extends the statute of limitations for unlawful discriminatory cases (A00501), while the second bill prohibits liquidated damages for plaintiffs in violation of their nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment cases (A00581). 

"Non-disclosure agreements and limited statutes of limitations can perpetuate a culture of silence, leaving survivors of discrimination and harassment without recourse. These bills will dismantle these barriers, creating a legal environment that prioritizes transparency, accountability, and the well-being of survivors," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. “I thank Governor Hochul for her dedication to creating a safer and more equitable New York for all."

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, “Under the current law, victims of unlawful discriminatory practices have an insufficiently short time period to file administrative complaints within the Division of Human Rights to trigger an investigation. As we’ve learned through the Adult Survivors and Child Victims Acts, processing violence or harassment can take time. I’m grateful that Governor Hochul signed our bill (S3255) with Assemblymember Rozic to raise the statute of limitations for all administrative unlawful discriminatory practice complaints from one to three years. Our laws must be supportive for those who have been harmed – not for their abusers.” 

State Senator Nathalia Fernandez said, “I commend the sponsors behind these two crucial bills for their foresight and dedication in reshaping our legal landscape surrounding harassment and discrimination claims. Their commitment to fostering a fair and just society is evident in the passage of these bills, amending the general obligations law and executive law. With these legislative strides, we are making significant progress in protecting survivors by dismantling punitive clauses in nondisclosure agreements and extending the statute of limitations for unlawful discriminatory practices. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Governor for the decisive action in signing these bills into law, underscoring our collective commitment to a more inclusive and equitable future for all.” 

Former Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, the original sponsor of A00581, said, “For years, harassers have weaponized NDAs and used the threat of massive financial penalties to force their victims into silence. Liquidated damages was the tool that employers used to get away with this conduct, and that is why it was so important to even the playing field. I congratulate my former colleagues Assemblymember Rozic and Senator Fernandez for winning this battle and commend Governor Hochul for making New York State a more equitable place to be employed.”

“The National Employment Lawyers Association - New York affiliate (NELA NY) hails the passage of A00581 and A00501 in advancing the rights of survivors of unlawful discrimination and harassment. A00581 bans the use of coercive liquidated damages clauses in agreements settling discrimination and harassment claims, and A00501 gives survivors additional and often much-needed time to file their claims with the State Division of Human Rights. We are grateful to Assemblywoman Rozic, Senator Fernandez, and Governor Hochul for their support of these bills,” said Lisa Lipman, Labor & Employment Attorney, National Employment Lawyers Association

The current timeframe to file administrative complaints with the Division of Human Rights has been insufficient, often not aligning with the time it takes individuals to process discriminatory experiences. Studies have found that a substantial number of survivors require over a year to address incidents of discrimination, which has severely impeded them from effectively exercising their rights and reporting it. 

Survivors of harassment and discrimination also often face the necessity of signing NDAs to secure compensation, but these agreements can include provisions that impose financial penalties for breaching terms. Recent data explains that over 75% of workplace harassment cases involve the use of NDAs, contributing to a power imbalance that discourages reporting and addressing workplace misconduct. 

“Governor Hochul’s signature on these two bills is a historic step in our fight for survivors,” said the Sexual Harassment Working Group. “Victims already carry a heavy emotional and financial burden when seeking justice. These survivor-centered laws will allow employees who have experienced all forms of harassment or discrimination a clearer path to healing without extreme pressure to file a Division of Human Rights complaint in such a short amount of time or a cloud of potential financial retribution following them. We are so grateful to Governor Hochul, Assemblymember Rozic, Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and Senator Fernandez for standing with survivors.” 

These new laws recognize the deficiencies in current legal practices and demonstrate a broader commitment to upholding accountability, and fairness related to statute of limitations and financial penalties associated with NDA compliance.