Expert Legal Services: Practice Areas
Discrimination in the Workplace
Several federal, state, and local laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Suppose you are a protected class member, and your employer took an adverse employment action against you because you are a protected class member. In that case, you may have a claim against your employer for employment discrimination. Examples of adverse steps that an employer may take against you are discharging, refusing to hire, promoting, or paying you less than other similarly situated employees. An employer cannot discriminate against you while making decisions regarding your employment terms, conditions, or privileges.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII): Protects employees from discrimination against them by their employers based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII generally covers employers with 15 employees or more.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): Protects employees from discrimination by their employers based on their age once they have reached the age of 40. The ADEA generally covers employers with 20 employees or more.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): Protects employees from discrimination by their employers based on their physical or mental disability or medical condition. The ADA generally covers employers with 15 employees or more.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA): The PDA amended Title VII to include pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions as a protected class under gender discrimination.
New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL): Protects employees from discrimination by their employers based on their age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, pregnancy, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, or domestic violence victim status. The NYSHRL generally covers employers with 4 employees or more, except for sexual harassment, where all employers are covered regardless of the number of employees.
Hostile Work Environment
Harassment in the workplace of protected class members is a form of employment discrimination. The same laws that protect employees who are members of a protected class against adverse employment actions also defend them against harassment in the workplace.
If you are a victim of offensive conduct because you are a protected class member, you may have a claim for workplace discrimination in the form of a hostile work environment.
Under federal and New York State law, the conduct must be severe or persuasive enough to create a hostile, intimidating, or abusive work environment. Single or minor incidents may not be enough to establish a hostile work environment under federal or state law. However, even isolated or minor incidents may be covered under New York City law.
Under federal and New York State law, the conduct must be severe or persuasive enough to create a hostile, intimidating, or abusive work environment. Single or minor incidents may not be enough to establish a hostile work environment under federal or state law. However, under New York City law, even isolated or minor incidents may be covered.
If you complain about your employer’s discriminatory or other unlawful practices and your employer takes an adverse action against you, you may have a retaliation claim. This includes if you assisted in someone else’s lawsuit against the employer for discriminatory or other unlawful practices, such as helping in an investigation or testifying as a witness in a trial or deposition. Your employer cannot fire you, demote you, reprimand you, reduce your pay, or otherwise interfere with any of the terms or conditions of your employment for retaliatory reasons. This applies even if the claims against your employer are ultimately dismissed.
The anti-discrimination laws also protect employees against sexual harassment. The protected class that covers victims of sexual harassment is gender. Sexual harassment usually happens in two contexts. The first situation is when a victim is requested to perform sexual favors in exchange for something from the employer or supervisor. For example, an employer or a supervisor may ask that the victim perform a sexual act to keep their job or to be promoted. The second situation is when the victim is subjected to unwelcomed sexual conduct, including physical contact, sexually suggestive gestures, or inappropriate verbal or written communication by either the employer or supervisor. The employer may also be liable for the sexual harassment of an employee by a third party if the employer or their agent is aware or should have been aware of the conduct and did not take the appropriate measures to stop it.
Wage and Hour Claims
You may be a victim of wage theft and not even know it. The questions below may help you find out if you are owed wages from your employer:
- Are you paid at least at the minimum wage rate?
- Are you paid one and a half times your hourly rate for hours you worked over 40 hours per week?
- If you are a minimum wage employee, are you paid an extra hour for days you worked 10 hours or more?
- Is your employer taking tips that belong to you or requiring you to share your tips with nontipped employees?
- Does your employer force you to work extra time you are not paid for?
If you answered “No” to Question 1, you may have a claim for unpaid minimum wages.
If you answered “No” to Question 2, you may have a claim for unpaid overtime wages.
If you answered “No” to Question 3, you may have a claim for unpaid spread of hours pay (the New York State law that requires employers to pay their employees an extra hour’s pay if the employees work 10 hours or more in one day and are paid at the minimum wage rate).
If you answered “Yes” to Question 4, you may have a claim for unlawful deductions or illegal tip pooling.
If you answered “Yes” to Question 5, you may have claims for unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unpaid spread of hours pay.
Federal and New York State law require that employers pay double the wages owed to victims of wage theft as liquidated damages.
Most employees in New York are at-will, which means that absent an employment contract, your employer can terminate you at any time for any lawful reason, just like you can quit your job at any time. However, your employer cannot: