Areas of Practice

Phillips & Associates - Areas of PracticeEmployment Discrimination Attorneys Representing New York City Residents

Many employers fail to comply with their legal obligations to employees. Employer misconduct may involve discriminating against or harassing certain workers who belong to protected classes or failing to pay employees according to minimum wage and overtime laws. In some cases, employers may unlawfully retaliate against employees who have complained about their mistreatment. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced New York City employment discrimination lawyers are familiar with federal, state, and local laws. We can help you file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a lawsuit for damages when appropriate. Whether you need a sexual harassment attorney, guidance with a wrongful termination claim, or another form of assistance, Phillips & Associates is ready to provide comprehensive representation to employees and job applicants whose rights have been violated.

Sexual Harassment

Federal law prohibits sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There are two categories of sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. A hostile work environment exists if an employee suffers harm because he or she is frequently the recipient of unwelcome advances, offensive comments, or other harassment. Quid pro quo harassment exists when a supervisor or another powerful authority figure in the workplace asks for sexual favors in exchange for taking a certain employment action, such as promoting an employee, or promising not to take a particular action, such as firing the employee.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Unfortunately, stereotypes surrounding pregnancy still sometimes play a role in how an employee expecting a child is treated in the workplace. A woman may find herself subjected to demeaning comments or overlooked for promotions or bonuses, simply on the basis of her pregnancy. These situations are unlawful and may form the basis of a claim. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), a federal law, employees throughout the U.S. are shielded from adverse treatment based on pregnancy, and they are entitled to be accommodated in the workplace similar to other temporarily disabled employees. Although the PDA covers only employers with 15 or more employees, state laws in New York extend to smaller businesses.

Sex or Gender Discrimination

Closely related to sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, gender discrimination arises when an employee is treated differently from his or her co-workers based on his or her sex. For example, an employee may not base promotions or pay raises on gender stereotypes or provide benefits only to female rather than male spouses of employees. The Equal Pay Act requires employers throughout the U.S. to provide equal pay to employees who are working in substantially equal jobs, regardless of their gender. This is broadly defined to include bonuses, stock options, and benefits, in addition to actual salary. As with other forms of discrimination, federal protections against gender discrimination extend not only to current employees but also to job applicants.

Race Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as state and local laws, prohibit racial discrimination in New York City workplaces. Title VII covers all private employers, educational institutions, and state and local government organizations that employ 15 or more workers. Under Title VII, it is illegal for a covered employer to discriminate against an employee or a job applicant based on race when taking employment actions. For example, it is illegal for your employer to fail to promote you or to terminate you based on race. Similarly, an employer interviewing a job applicant cannot fail to hire that applicant merely because he or she is of a particular race. State and local laws also prohibit this form of discrimination.

Disability Discrimination

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer may not discriminate against a qualified employee based on a history of disability or the employer's belief that a qualified employee has a mental or physical impairment that is not short-lived and minor. Even employees and job applicants who are not actually disabled are protected against discrimination if the employer takes an adverse employment action because it believes there is a disability. Moreover, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees who request an accommodation due to the disability, unless providing that accommodation would be overly expensive or difficult.

Age Discrimination

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), employers in New York and elsewhere in the U.S. may not discriminate against workers who are over 40 years old on the basis of their age. Businesses with 20 or more employees are covered by this federal law, while New York State and City laws provide additional protections. Also, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) governs actions by employers that are related to employee benefits. Under the OWBPA, employers may not reduce benefits based on age unless the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older employees is no greater than the cost of providing benefits to younger employees.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

While federal law does not explicitly prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in most situations, the state of New York does protect employees in the private sector from this type of conduct. Even if your employer acts based on a mistaken belief about your sexual orientation, you may be entitled to assert your legal rights. Any type of unequal treatment of employees based on actual or perceived sexual orientation is prohibited in New York. This can consist of overt harassment or actions such as being denied professional advancement, and it also may arise from more subtle comments such as whether a person is not masculine or not feminine enough for a certain role or job.

National Origin Discrimination

Laws at the federal, state, and city levels prevent employers from treating workers differently based on their country of origin as well as certain related traits, such as ethnicity, ancestry, or foreign accent. As with other forms of discrimination, a claim may arise whether or not the employer’s perception of the employee’s national origin is accurate. For example, a company may not refuse interviews to people who have foreign accents or place additional requirements on non-white individuals during the job application process. In some situations, a company may require that only English be spoken in the workplace, but only if it promotes the necessary operations of the business.

Religious Discrimination

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for the religious practices of their employees, in addition to refraining from harassing them based on their religion. Religious beliefs are broadly defined under the law, extending from a membership in a particular religion to sincere ethical or personal beliefs. Unless a religious observance would create an undue hardship for an employer or interfere with a bona fide qualification of the job, an employer must accommodate an employee’s sincere desire to engage in that observance, such as by rearranging a work schedule. An employee also may have a legal claim if his or her employer fails to address hostile actions by customers or clients toward the employee based on his or her religion.

Criminal Conviction Discrimination

This form of discrimination tends to arise most often in the application or hiring process. Although adverse decisions based on prior criminal convictions are not specifically prohibited by federal law, New York State has enacted laws in this area to protect its public policy interest in providing employment for citizens with criminal records. Discrimination based on a prospective employee’s criminal history is not permitted unless the job is in law enforcement, there is a direct relationship between the applicant’s conviction and the type of job, or hiring the applicant would pose an unreasonable risk to people or property. Employers that do consider prior convictions must take into account how much time has passed since the conviction, how old the applicant was when the crime was committed, and the severity of the offense.

Wage and Hour and Overtime Claims

Minimum wage, overtime, and rest requirements in New York are set by several laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, an employee can be classified as either exempt or nonexempt. Exempt workers are typically salaried professionals. Most workers are nonexempt, however. Nonexempt workers are entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, and meal and rest breaks. In New York, for example, Labor Law Section 162 specifies the required meal periods for employees.

Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

Most anti-discrimination laws include provisions that prohibit retaliation for engaging in protected activities, such as assisting with a discrimination investigation, filing a charge with the EEOC, or suing your employer for harassment. Although most employment relationships are "at will," employers cannot fire or terminate employees in order to retaliate against them. When an employee is fired for engaging in a protected activity or for some other reason that violates public policy, he or she may have grounds to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit.

EEOC Representation and Other Areas of Practice

Central to the enforcement of federal discrimination laws, the EEOC investigates complaints brought by employees related to alleged violations of Title VII and similar laws. You must file a charge of discrimination with this agency within 180 days of the conduct on which your complaint is based. The EEOC first will try to resolve the dispute through an informal process known as conciliation. It also offers a mediation program that the employer and employee can use as an alternative to litigation if both agree to it. If conciliation and mediation prove unsuccessful, the EEOC can either bring a claim against the employer or provide the employee with notice of its decision not to pursue the case further and the employee’s right to sue. Often, the EEOC will not pursue a meritorious case because critical evidence has not yet been discovered. You should be aware that you still may have a strong case even if the agency did not sue your employer itself.

Other areas in which the attorneys at Phillips & Associates can assist you include representation before the New York Division of Human Rights, an agency similar to the EEOC but at the state level. We also can represent you during the arbitration process or when you are negotiating a severance agreement with your employer

Consult a New York City Lawyer for an Employment Discrimination Claim

If you suffer from employer misconduct, you should consult a New York City employment discrimination attorney about your potential claims. At Phillips & Associates, we provide tenacious legal representation to employees who need a wrongful termination lawyer or guidance with any other type of claim involving infringements of their rights under federal, state, and local laws. Contact us at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form to set up a free consultation. Our attorneys represent employees throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island and Westchester.

PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
45 Broadway, Suite 620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107
info@tpglaws.com

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