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New York Statute Expands Religious Discrimination Protections in the Workplace

New York Governor George E. Pataki recently signed a bill (A. 7340) that expands existing protections for employees by making it an unlawful discriminatory practice to impose circumstances where an employee would have to forgo religious observances as a condition of employment or promotion.

The law prohibits employers from refusing to allow an employee to use leave for a religious observance. The former law protected employee accommodations for a Sabbath or holy day, but failed to cover other forms of religious practices or beliefs (e.g., dress, hair style, beards, prayer requirements).

In addition to greater protection, the law more clearly defines what employer accommodations represent an “undue hardship.” If an accommodation is an “undue hardship” employers are granted an exception from the law. Any accommodation that involves a “significant expense or difficulty” will be deemed an “undue hardship.”

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