Many workers have needed to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, Jesse Weinstein of Phillips & Associates spoke to Lawyer Monthly about discrimination when employees are working remotely. If you have faced employment discrimination during remote work, you should discuss your situation with the experienced New York City employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We may be able to pursue damages on your behalf.
Employment Discrimination During Remote Work
The pandemic has had widespread economic effects. It has caused many layoffs, furloughs, and work-from-home arrangements. While you might assume the reverse to be true, many supervisors more carefully scrutinize employees’ work product and time management during remote work. Unfortunately, many employees have needed to work with greater intensity to counter this tendency. Even though working remotely can increase efficiency through the use of tech platforms, it can also increase the speed and boldness with which harassers send improper texts or messages. During remote work, retaliation has also occurred within a shorter window of time after an employee engaged in a protected activity, such as reporting illegal harassment.
Discrimination occurs when an employer takes a negative step toward an employee based on a protected trait, such as disability, race, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or age. Sexual harassment is also a form of discrimination.
Familial Status Discrimination
Mothers have also been especially affected by the pandemic with regard to their work. Faced with closed schools and remote learning, mothers have taken on childcare and teaching, on top of full-time work. Mr. Weinstein has repeatedly found that employers discriminate against working moms for their familial status. Since mothers were primary caregivers, they were not promoted, they were treated disparately, or they faced gender-related comments about their ability to work. Often, men were promoted over women with equal qualifications, simply because they were not mothers, even in the context of remote work.
Hostile Work Environment
Your employer needs to maintain a workplace that is not a hostile work environment, even when employees work from home. Employers can be held accountable for discrimination and harassment that result in a hostile work environment. Similarly, they can be held accountable if they know about harassment but do not immediately look into it or stop it from occurring in the future.
Local and state laws provide broader protections than the federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under federal anti-discrimination laws, you would need to establish a hostile work environment by showing that there was pervasive and severe harassment. However, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law do not require that this stringent standard be met by the employee. Instead, the employer bears the burden of proving that the harassing conduct was nothing but a trivial inconvenience or petty slight. Harassment could include racial slurs, sexual advances, and remarks about other protected characteristics, even if they occur from a distance or when not in each other’s physical presence. Notably, many harassment cases have greater evidence than they did before because harassers leave behind digital footprints.
During the pandemic, many employers have failed to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities as they are required to do under state and city laws. If you can show that your disability meets the statutory definition, and the employer knew of it, you could perform essential job functions with reasonable accommodations, and your employer failed to provide an accommodation, you may be able to establish disability discrimination. During the pandemic, requests for reasonable accommodations have risen.
An employer must provide an accommodation, even if it is not the precise accommodation that you requested, so long as it does not pose an undue hardship. Employers cannot merely say that there are economic reasons for failing to provide any sort of reasonable accommodation for a disability.
Consult an Experienced New York City Attorney
Your workplace rights have not changed because you work from home. During the pandemic, Mr. Weinstein has represented many people who were terminated, placed on a Performance Improvement Plan, or suspended after complaining about discrimination. If you are concerned about discrimination during remote work, one of the experienced trial attorneys at Phillips & Associates may be able to represent you. We assist employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or complete our online form.