Workplace Discrimination in Buffalo, NY
Discrimination is an all-too-familiar scenario for many in the workplace. Likewise, it is also the most common type of workplace lawsuit that workers file. An experienced Buffalo, New York workplace discrimination attorney can help. Find out how.
What Is Workplace Discrimination?
Discrimination in the workplace deals with unfair treatment. These laws can vary, depending on factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, physical qualities, or age. Workplace discrimination can occur between employees or between employers and existing or prospective employees.
Buffalo, New York Labor laws make some types of workplace discrimination illegal. If illegal discrimination occurs, workers may be able to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit. A worker does not need to currently have employment from a company to face qualifying acts of discrimination. For instance, say the company chose not to hire someone. If it’s because of a qualifying characteristic, the individual may be able to file a claim.
Here are some of the most common types of discrimination that occur in the Buffalo, NY work environment:
- Choosing not to hire someone because of their disability
- Choosing not to promote someone because of their race
- Excluding someone from a project because management says they’re too old
- Making misogynistic comments about women
- Deliberately paying men more than women because the boss values their work more
Should You File a Complaint With the HR Department or the EEOC?
Most Buffalo, NY companies have a human resources department and discrimination in the workplace falls within their portfolio. For that reason, raising concerns with the appropriate HR representative may include filing a written report, a possible sit-down interview, and an investigation.
Sometimes a company does not have a human resources department and there are no policies in place. To resolve the issue, you might take your concerns directly to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They can assist you in investigating the claim and possibly filing a lawsuit.
Buffalo workers can file a complaint with the Buffalo Local Office of the EEOC. Once you formalize your complaint, the EEOC will send a copy to your employer within 10 days. Next, the agency will typically offer mediation before they proceed with an investigation. Keep in mind, there is no time limit for the investigation. If the EEOC finds that your employer has violated the law, they will try to resolve the case through a settlement. However, the EEOC may find it necessary to litigate the case on your behalf.
What Laws Protect Against Discrimination in the Workplace?
There are federal workplace discrimination laws that help to protect employees. On a federal level, Buffalo employees have protections from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, many states have even stronger laws that offer additional protections.
Let’s use an example. California is the first state where ethnic hair and the right to wear it naturally became a right with protections. In other states, employers may discriminate against natural hair because it is part of racial discrimination.
According to the New York State Division of Human Rights, New York has recently strengthened many workplace discrimination protections. For example, non-employees working in a Buffalo workplace are now protected from all discrimination. The protections extend to contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, or others providing services. As well, courts can now award punitive damages against private-sector employers in Buffalo. Courts may now also award attorney’s fees in all employment cases.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
This specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, religion, sex, color, or national origin. It typically applies to organizations with 15 or more employees. It also applies to schools (both public and private) and labor organizations. The EEOC’s primary responsibility is enforcing this law.
In 1945, New York State became the first state to enact legislation prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, creed, and national origin. There have been many additions to the New York Human Rights Law (HRL) over the years. In 1974, New York broadened the law to protect people with disabilities. Effective Feb 8, 2020, the HRL will apply to all employers within Buffalo and the rest of the state, regardless of the number of employees.
Other Notable Applicable Federal Discrimination Laws
- Equal Pay Act (EPA) – Deals with equal pay act for men and women
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – Protects workers aged 40 and over
- Americans with Disabilities Act – Protects employees with physical disabilities
Examples of State Workplace Discrimination Laws
- New York State: As of October 2019, New York’s Human Rights Law protects victims of harassment in Buffalo, including sexual harassment, in new ways. For example, harassment is now illegal whenever an individual is subjected to inferior terms of employment. Additionally, the harassment does not need to be severe or pervasive in order for the employer to be liable. Furthermore, as of August 12, 2020, the statute of limitations for filing sexual harassment employment cases is 3 years.
- California: The CROWN Act – Bans employers from discriminating against ethnic hair.
- New York: Human Rights Law – Prohibits discrimination.. Includes expansions to include ethnic hair, sexual orientation, and gender identity as characteristics with protections
- Washington: Washington State Law Against Discrimination – Makes discrimination illegal, including discrimination against disabled people who rely on service animals
What Is the Workplace Discrimination Process Like?
Filing a claim for workplace discrimination in Buffalo, New York can be a tricky process given the number of potential laws in play. This is especially the case when the characteristics with protections only qualify under state law. The EEOC enforces federal workplace discrimination laws. In some cases, individual state labor departments handle the claims that only qualify under state law.
Filing a Claim
When it comes to federal claims, workers have about 180 days to file, to remain within the statute of limitations. Time is of the essence with discrimination claims. It’s a good idea to hire a discrimination lawyer to help from the beginning.
Buffalo, NY claimants also need to provide some basic information with their claim. Depending on the agency, the employer’s name, the name(s) of involved parties, and a description of the incident. It will also include the contact information for everyone with involvement in the issue.
Once the investigation has begun, the agency may request more information. They generally give you ample time and opportunity to produce said information if this happens.
Investigating the Claim
The investigation may involve interviewing the Buffalo employee, employer, other employees at the same place of business. However, it may also include anyone else who may have relevant information. The agency determines that the claim is valid and discrimination did, in fact, take place. The next step is generally to work for settlement or mediation. For this reason, both parties may have an incentive to work out a compromise.
Still, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit with the appropriate court. This is especially true if the parties cannot reach a settlement on the employee’s behalf. If that’s the case, an attorney issues what is known as a “Right To Sue” letter. This letter gives the employee suffering from discrimination the right to sue on their own accord.
If the New York State Division of Human Rights investigator finds that there is no probable cause that unlawful discrimination took place, the Division will dismiss the case. The Buffalo complainant has 60 days to appeal that decision to the New York State Supreme Court. In fact, either the Complainant or the Respondent can appeal a Commissioner’s Order within 60 days. If the EEOC is investigating your federal complaint, you have 30 days to file an appeal with the Office of Federal Operations.
Work With an Experienced Workplace Discrimination Lawyer In Buffalo, New York
Consider hiring a Buffalo lawyer who specializes in discrimination as soon as the incident takes place. Experts often recommend that you resolve the issue internally through the proper HR channels. On the other hand, many employers mishandle these cases.
If you are considering a lawsuit an attorney becomes even more necessary. Buffalo, NY discrimination attorneys can help you with the paperwork, prepare you for depositions, and find corroborating witnesses to support your claim.
If the court rules in your favor, you might become entitled to several different compensatory benefits:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Reasonable accommodations
- Payment of attorneys’ fees, court costs, and expert witness fees
Are you ready to find out if you are eligible for these benefits in Buffalo? Start with a case review.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!