It’s unfortunate but true: discrimination still rears its ugly head in workplaces across the Empire State. Whether you're on Wall Street or Main Street, understanding your rights against discrimination is critical. Discrimination occurs when you are treated unfairly at your job based on a characteristic that’s considered a "protected class" under the law. That sounds technical, so let’s break it down. Here are the types of personal characteristics that New York anti-discrimination law protects, with a brief description of the state and federal laws that apply:
Race, Color and National Origin
Applicable Laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL)
Racial discrimination is one of the most documented types of bias in the workplace. Rest assured, both federal and state laws have your back. But asserting claims for racial discrimination in the workplace is fraught with complexities and obstacles. For example, lawsuits under Title VII require compliance with various procedures and some fairly tight deadlines. Make sure to discuss your claim with an attorney promptly
Applicable Laws: Title VII, NYSHRL, NYCHRL, and the Constitution
Workplace discrimination based on your faith? That’s not okay in New York. Employers are also obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for religious practices. In certain cases, religious discrimination can also be unconstitutional.
Sex and Gender
Applicable Laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), New York State Equal Pay Act
From sexual harassment to unequal pay, gender-based discrimination is unfortunately still pervasive. Title VII and NYSHRL broadly address discrimination based on sex and gender. Moreover, the New York State Equal Pay Act focuses explicitly on wage discrimination, making it illegal for employers to pay employees of opposite sexes differently for the same or substantially similar work, unless there are legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for the disparity.
Applicable Laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, NYSHRL, NYCHRL
In New York, discrimination based on sexual orientation is explicitly illegal under state and city laws. And recent changes in federal law also now make Title VII applicable to sexual orientation or transgender status.
Applicable Laws: Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), NYSHRL
If you're 40 or older, know that age-based discrimination is illegal under both federal and state laws. The ADEA provides a specific framework for prohibiting age discrimination.
Applicable Laws: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), NYSHRL
Discrimination based on disability is a serious violation. In addition to typical prohibitions against discrimination in hiring, firing and advancement practices, the ADA also requires employer to provide "reasonable accommodations" to enable an otherwise qualified person to do their job. Employers must engage in a "good faith interactive process" to determine effective reasonable accommodations. This could include changes in work hours, modification of equipment, or provision of assistive technology. And employers are required to maintain confidentiality regarding any disability you disclose and can only share this information with individuals who have a legitimate need to know.
Pregnancy / Familial Status / Parenthood
Applicable Laws: Pregnancy Discrimination Act, NYSHRL
Discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination. And dads are not alone, either; it is unlawful for New York employers to discriminate against anyone—male, female or other—because they have children or will soon have children. There are even protections for adoptive parents.
Applicable Laws: Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), NYSHRL
To protect our service members, both federal and state law strictly prohibits discrimination against both current and former military service members.
Marital Status and Domestic Violence Victim Status
Applicable Laws: NYSHRL, NYCHRL
New York State and City laws extend protections for individuals discriminated against based on marital status or if they have been victims of domestic violence.
Applicable Laws: First Amendment, Public Employees Fair Employment Act (Taylor Law) in New York
In more limited cases, discrimination of employees based on their beliefs or opinions (philosophical, political, or other) may break the law. For public employees, the First Amendment prohibits unequal treatment of individuals based on their beliefs or opinions. In New York, the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, commonly known as the Taylor Law, also sets forth protections for public employees, including against discrimination based on political or social viewpoints. These protections are complex and limited, however. For example, speech that interferes with workplace efficiency, or that is made pursuant to an employee's official duties, may not be protected.
Understanding the Legal Framework Behind
Having explored the specific categories of discrimination and the laws that regulate them, it's instructive to delve into the general principles that form the bedrock of anti-discrimination statutes.
Legal Tests for Discrimination: The 'McDonnell Douglas' test is a burden-shifting framework frequently invoked in discrimination claims. It begins with you, the employee, establishing a basic case. The employer can counter with a valid, non-discriminatory reason for the action in question. The onus then returns to you to show that this reason is merely a cover for discrimination.
Indicators of Discrimination: Courts often scrutinize various factors to ascertain whether discrimination has occurred. These can include:
Disparate Treatment: Unequal treatment of similarly situated employees.
Pattern of Behavior: Repeated incidents can establish a pattern indicative of discrimination.
Comparative Evidence: Treatment of the complainant vis-à-vis employees outside the protected class.
Employer Statements: Comments or admissions that reveal discriminatory intent.
Retaliation: Legal protections extend to shield you from retaliation should you file a discrimination complaint or participate in an investigation. Retaliatory actions can range from termination and demotion to other harmful employment consequences.
How We Can Help
Deciphering employment discrimination law can be complex, but you're not alone on this journey. T&S is poised to guide you through the intricacies. If you think you’ve suffered from unlawful workplace discrimination, T&S can review the situation at your convenience, with a free and confidential consultation.
From Bias to Justice: Tackling Discrimination in New York
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