Discrimination in the workplace is illegal in New York and we actively encourage employees to point out and bring up instances of discrimination, both within their workplace, to the relevant authorities, and even to an experienced employment lawyer. However, before you start complaining about discrimination at your job, there are a few key things you need to know.
- Types of Discrimination
In the state of New York, there are federally protected classes and state protected classes of people that businesses cannot discriminate against. This includes discriminating against people because of their race, gender, age, national origin, disability, pregnancy or parenthood status, relationships, and more. The most common type of discrimination in the workplace is discrimination for retaliatory reasons, such as when someone previously reported an issue or participated in an investigation.
Discrimination occurs, for example, when a job posting contains age or gender requirements. In the age of internet advertising, this can include the targeting for a job advertisement. If a company is hiring workers and advertising the position on Facebook, for example, then the target for the advertisement must include both men and women over 18 in the correct geographic area. To do otherwise would be age or gender discrimination. However, limiting the search to people who have college degrees, if a college degree is a requirement for the job, is not discrimination.
It is also illegal to make assumptions about a person’s ability based on their membership in any protected class. A business cannot assume a person with a particular religion will or will not be able to perform certain tasks, that a pregnant woman would not want a certain type of job, or that someone would not be familiar with certain technology because of their age. An employer cannot assume someone is incapable because of his or her disability.
- Discrimination Exceptions
While discrimination is generally illegal, there are a few exceptions focusing on whether someone needs certain characteristics to perform a job. The Religious Organization Exception to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act gives religious institutions the ability to give preference to employees who profess their religion. When hiring a preacher for a church, for example, the church is allowed to choose someone who professes the same beliefs as the church body. This exception would not apply, however, to discriminating against someone on the basis of their race or gender.
Similarly, businesses are allowed to choose to hire people who meet the bona fide qualifications for the job requirements. In order to discriminate based on bona fide qualifications, however, the otherwise protected characteristic must be necessary to perform the job, not just a preference of management or the fact that in the past people who fit a certain profile have held similar positions. For example, if a role in a TV show calls for a young woman, then the casting company can focus their search on young women and discriminate based on gender and age.
- Discrimination and Harassment
Harassment is often a form of discrimination where the workplace is made uncomfortable for someone, sometimes because of their protected status, in retaliation for something the worker did previously, and sometimes for no clear reason. Harassment can include a variety of uncomfortable behaviors by coworkers or management that often lead to effective discrimination in the workplace.
Harassment rises to the level of unlawful harassment when an employee is required to endure offensive conduct as a prerequisite to their continued employment, to a change in salary, or to a change in position. It is also an issue if the conduct is severe to the point that a reasonable person would consider the workplace hostile.
If you think you’re facing discrimination or harassment in the workplace, reach out to our team of experience New York employment lawyers. When you hire Phillips & Associates, you can be confident that your rights are going to be protected just as aggressively as your employer protects the business. For a free consultation, call the attorneys at Phillips & Associates today at (866) 229-9441.
At Phillips & Associates - We Level the Playing Field
Employees were, and for the most part still are, at a big disadvantage in the workplace. There is a dramatic power imbalance between employees and the companies for which they work. This power balance can intensify after experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The company/employer often hires a large law firm to represent it, while the employee may have just lost their job, have very little money and no one to help them understand their rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have the experience, staffing, and financial backing to keep the playing field level. People need to take a close look at the lawyer or law firm they want to hire and determine if that lawyer or firm has the funds, experience and the resources to properly litigate their case.
Phillips & Associates, one of the largest plaintiffs’ only employment law firms in New York. The firm handles cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including pregnancy, race, disability, religion, gender, and sexual orientation and other protected traits. Phillips & Associates also handles other areas of harassment at work such as retaliation and wrongful termination. Most recently Phillips & Associates was selected as one of the "10 Best Employment & Labor Law Firms" in New York" by the American Institute of Legal Counsel.