What Does Discrimination Look Like When Working From Home? - September 2020

If there’s anything the coronavirus pandemic has underscored, it’s the importance of workplace flexibility. Companies that already had good work-from-home systems in place, or flex-time, were able to work around employees who were required to quarantine with minimal loss of productivity. Others struggled to make the change, or were simply unable to adapt due to the type of business. An increase in working from home, coupled with an increase in stress and the national news, brought the topic of discrimination to everyone’s mind.

More Insight Into Our Homes

With the increase in online meetings, employers and team members now have unusual access to see coworkers in their home environments. This means that they at times see an employee’s family members, kids, living rooms, bedrooms and more. All these details show information that an employee may not otherwise share. Our homes, after all, are our personal space where we can be ourselves. Our loved ones and family members who may walk through the background of a meeting are who they are, but represent personal information we may not share at, or with, work.

The discrimination categories have not changed. Employers are still prohibited from discriminating based on race, religion, gender, religion, family status, caregiver status, and much more. This information may become much more apparent when viewed through the lens of insight into your home, causing an increase in discrimination. This can occur for example if an employee has a religious painting or symbol in their home, that is visible during a Zoom meeting, and has discriminatory comments or jokes made by other participants in the meeting. Another example is where an employee is in an on-line meeting, his wife appears briefly in the background, and other participants start making sexual jokes or suggestions about her.

What Should You Do?

To the best of your ability, control the space in which you work. Make sure the computer camera is turned to face a wall so no one walks behind you, and you better can control what is seen from the screen. You can also ask if you can use a virtual background or simply call into the meetings instead of appearing on video. Even with all these precautions, you're at home and so it's hard to completely control your environment.

While individuals are responsible for protecting their privacy by controlling what is shared on the screen, it is still up to the employer to address any violations or discrimination that occurs or is reported.

Sadly, just like when we’re in the office, employers may not take your complaint seriously, or it may be your boss who is being discriminatory. In these cases, you may want to reach out to the team of employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We are a big firm that defends employees, so you won’t be outgunned by the big firm your old employer hires to defend themselves. For a free consultation, call the experienced New York discrimination and wrongful termination 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 have 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.

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