In a continued effort to make New York a worker-friendly state, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed A.6604/S.4982 into law, which amends the state’s labor law by further protecting employee freedom of speech and consciences. It does so by prohibiting employers from having the ability to coerce employees into attending or participating in meetings that are sponsored by the employer concerning the employer’s views on political or religious matters. It also prohibits employers from disciplining employees that opt not to participate in such meetings.
In addition to all the previously protected employee activity under New York Labor Law Section 201-d that shielded employees from the unlawful “refusal to hire, employ or license, or to discharge from employment, or otherwise discriminate against an individual in compensation, promotion or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” by an employer or employment agency, the following activity, as part of the newly signed legislation, will now be protected:
An individual’s refusal to: (i) attend an employer-sponsored meeting with the employer or its agent, representative, or designee, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters; or (ii) listen to speech or view communications, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters.
Nothing that was previously written in the law, or included in the updated language, shall prohibit employers, their agents, representatives, or designees from:
- communicating information to its employees that is required by law, but only to the extent of such legal requirement;
- communicating to its employees any information necessary for employees to perform their job duties;
- engaging in casual conversations with employees, provided participation in such conversations is not required; or
- having a requirement limited to the employer’s managerial and supervisory employees.
Higher education institutes or any of its agents, representatives, or designees are exempt from anything previously written in the law or in the updated language in connection with “meeting with or participating in any communications with its employees that are part of coursework, any symposia, or an academic program at such institution.”
The provisions of New York Labor Law Section 201-d shall not apply to speech on religious matters to employees of a “religious corporation, entity, association, educational institution, or society that is exempt from the requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant to 42 USC 2000e-1(a)” in connection with the performance of their duties.
As a new requirement of the updated legislation, all employers in New York state must post the updated law in its entirety for all employees to see in the location or locations where notices to employees are normally posted in the workplace.
Gov. Hochul has stated this legislation, as part of a package of legislation she signed including changes to the workers’ compensation law, “will help to ensure that all New Yorkers receive the benefits and protections that allow them to work with dignity.”
Please view PIA Northeast’s corresponding QuickSource 31441 detailing these updates.
 Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to Support Workers by Protecting Employees From Mandatory Political and Religious Meetings, Strengthening Wage Theft Penalties, and Increasing Benefits for Injured Workers, New York State, Sept. 6, 2023.
Danielle Caswell, Esq.
Danielle Caswell joined PIA Northeast as associate counsel in the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2023. She earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University and her law degree from Brooklyn Law School with a particular focus on intellectual property, information, and media law. Prior to joining PIA, Danielle was an associate at a law firm in New York City where she focused primarily on intellectual property and entertainment-related transactional and litigation matters.