The New York City Council passed landmark legislation today establishing New York City’s first workers’ bill of rights, a victory for immigrant workers.
The bill, which was first introduced in May, would require multiple city departments as well as community and labor organizations to create a workers’ bill of rights that would detail the rights and protections workers are guaranteed under federal, state, and local laws regardless of their immigration status.
Employers would be required to provide a copy of the bill to newly hired employees and would also be required to post it in a visible location in the workplace. The bill must be posted in English as well as in the primary language spoken by at least 5% of employees. Any employer who fails to comply with the new law will be given a warning with 30 days to correct or contest the violation. Subsequent violations will result in a $500 fine.
The bill follows Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement last month of a statewide initiative that would connect asylum seekers who have obtained legal work authorization with employers willing to hire them. For those without federal work authorization, state lawmakers are also considering issuing a New York-specific work permit in an attempt to get asylum seekers out of shelters and living independently.
With so many asylum seekers looking for employment, workplace exploitation, already common in jobs like construction and cleaning where they generally work, is on the rise. A Brooklyn City Council member said the city has seen an “uptick in workplace harassment,” including wage theft, lack of paid sick leave and workers being prevented from joining unions. A worker’s bill of rights would help educate newly arrived immigration about their rights and protections.
To ensure the widest impact, the bill requires the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights, to work in conjunction with labor groups, to raise awareness of the workers’ bill of rights through outreach events and public workshops. Workers would be provided information on how to join unions, what to expect if ICE agents come to a workplace, federal eligibility requirements for Temporary Protected Status, and labor laws.