Workplace Discrimination in New York

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 New York workplace discrimination attorney can help. Find out how.

What Is Workplace Discrimination?

Discrimination in the workplace deals with unfair treatment. These laws find their basis 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.

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 current ly have employment from a company to face qualifying discrimination. For instance, the company chose not to hire someone. If it’s because of a qualifying characteristic, the individual may become entitled to a claim.

Here are some of the most common types of discrimination that occur in the New Yorkwork 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 New York 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.

Depending on where you work, New York employees can file a complaint with the New York District Office or the Buffalo Local Office of the EEOC. Once you submit a complaint, the EEOC will investigate your allegations. However, the agency typically offers mediation before they proceed with an investigation. If the EEOC finds evidence of a violation of 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, New York 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 protection.

Let’s take an example. California became the first state where ethnic hair and the right to wear it naturally became a right. In other states, employers may discriminate against natural hair because 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 the 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 employers. Furthermore, courts may now 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 discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, creed, and national origin. There have been many additions to the New York Human Rights Law over the years.  In 1974, New York broadened the law to protect people with disabilities. In July 2021, the state enacted legislation that allows you to file a discrimination complaint without it first being verified by oath in front of a notary public.

Other Notable Applicable Federal Discrimination Laws

Examples of State Workplace Discrimination Laws

  • New York State: As of October 2019, New York’s Human Rights Law protects victims of harassment, including sexual harassment, in new ways. For example, harassment is now illegal whenever an individual is subject to inferior terms of employment. As well, the harassment does not need to be severe or pervasive in order for the employer to be liable.
  • California: The CROWN Act – Bans employers from discriminating against ethnic hair.
  • New York: Human Rights Law – Prohibits discrimination. It includes protections for ethnic hair, sexual orientation, and gender identity as protected characteristics
  • Washington: Washington State Law Against Discrimination – Makes discrimination illegal, including discrimination against people with disabilities who rely on service animals

What Is the Workplace Discrimination Process Like?

Filing a claim for workplace discrimination in New York can be a tricky process given the number of potential laws in play. This is especially the case when the characteristics of the case under 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.

New York 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 involved.

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 New York 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 settlements or mediation. For this reason, both parties have incentive to work out a compromise.

It may become 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 this is the case, an attorney can issue a “Right To Sue” letter. This letter gives the employee facing discrimination the right to sue on their own accord.

The EEOC may dismiss your case if their investigation does not find evidence of a violation. However, you can appeal this decision with the EEOC within 30 days of their final action. A New York employee can submit an appeal online through the Public Portal. Alternatively, you can submit an appeal by mail, or in person at the Office of Federal Operations in Washington, D.C.

Work With an Experienced Workplace Discrimination Lawyer in New York

Consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in discrimination in New York 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. New York 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
  • Promotion
  • Reinstatement
  • 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 New York? Start with a case review. We can even help you connect with an attorney across New York state lines.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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