Over the last two years, employment laws have expanded substantially to provide workers with more robust protections against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. Multiple states, including New York and California, have mandated that employers take additional action to prevent sexual harassment, and additional protections against pay discrimination are now in place in New Jersey and Massachusetts. But one of the biggest expansions of all could come from a little-publicized provision that New York state just enacted.
A problem with most workplace discrimination laws, including federal laws, is that they leave out an increasingly large number of workers. That is because many of these laws say that they only protect so-called “employees.” In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government agency charged with enforcing a host of federal anti-discrimination laws, takes the position that “[i]n most circumstances, an individual is only protected if s/he was an ‘employee’ at the time of the alleged discrimination, rather than an independent contractor, partner, or other non-employee.”
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