On December 23, New York Governor Hochul signed into law Assembly Bill A6328A amending New York Executive Law § 292, known as the New York State Human Rights Law, to add citizenship and immigration status to the list of covered protected characteristics. Among other things, the new law expressly prohibits discrimination against any applicants for credit based on their citizenship or immigration status.

Specifically, under amended Section 296-a of New York’s Executive Law, it is now unlawful for any creditor or any officer, agent, or employee to discriminate in the case of applications for the granting, withholding, extending, renewing of credit, or in the fixing of interest rates, terms or conditions of any form of credit on the basis of citizenship or immigration status, as well as other specified protected characteristics.

The law defines the term “citizenship or immigration status” as “the citizenship of any person or the immigration status of any person who is not a citizen of the United States.” The text goes on to clarify that, “[n]othing in this article shall preclude verification of citizenship or immigration status where required by law, nor shall an adverse action based on verification of citizenship or immigration status be prohibited where such adverse action is required by law.”

New York is not the first state to expand its civil rights laws to include these characteristics. In March 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation prohibiting discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status. Likewise, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51, protects “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of this state” from discrimination based on “citizenship” or “immigration status.” Since going into effect, California has seen a rise in litigation alleging discrimination based on immigration status in such areas as student loan refinancing and credit card approvals. The enactment of New York’s amendments to its fair lending law raises the possibility that similar litigation could occur in New York.