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Fired or Laid Off During the Coronavirus

Fighting Discrimination or Harassment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Generally, employment in New York is at will, even during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This means that you can be terminated at any time and generally for any reason. However, you still may be able to bring a hostile work environment claim after being terminated if you faced harassment or discrimination based on a protected trait, such as sex, race, national origin, or sexual orientation. You should retain an experienced New York City hostile work environment lawyer when pursuing damages for discrimination or harassment after being fired or laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, improper comments, touching, groping, and other behavior based on sex. For example, if your coworkers emailed you pornographic images and made sexual comments toward you, you may have a claim of sexual harassment. Under federal or state law, a hostile work environment claim requires you to show that sexual harassment was so severe or pervasive that it altered the terms and conditions of employment. However, under the New York City law, you only need to show that you were treated less favorably than other employees because of a protected characteristic. You can bring a harassment lawsuit without first showing how severe or pervasive the harassment at issue was.

Harassment Based on Race

If you face racial harassment, such as racial comments or symbols in the workplace, you may have a claim for hostile work environment based on race. For example, if you are black and your supervisor puts a noose on your desk, you likely have a claim for racial harassment. Under the federal and state laws, if you are subjected to racial comments or symbols that are severe or that pervade your workplace, you may have a hostile work environment claim.

Harassment Based on National Origin

If you receive comments, jokes, or slurs in the workplace about your national origin, you may have a claim for hostile work environment harassment. For example, if you are Asian American and your coworkers make insulting comments to you about spreading the coronavirus every day, you should contact our attorneys to find out whether you may have a claim. Similarly, if you are Middle Eastern and receive insults about being a terrorist from your supervisor, you may have a hostile work environment claim.

Harassment Based on Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited under the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. If you are insulted or receive derogatory comments on the job about your sexual orientation or being LGBTQ, you may have a claim for sexual orientation harassment. For example, if your manager uses derogatory slurs against you because you are a woman married to a woman, you may be able to pursue damages even if you were later fired or laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harassment Based on Gender

You should be judged on work performance, rather than your gender. For example, if you work in a factory and your supervisor repeatedly comments that only men are suited for this job and makes cruel jokes because you do not conform to gender stereotypes, while your coworkers make daily comments that you should find a new line of work because of your gender, you likely have a claim for hostile work environment.

Harassment Based on Age

Workers who are 40 or older are protected under federal law, while workers of all ages are protected under state and city laws. For example, if your manager repeatedly makes remarks about needing fresh faces in the office, calls you “ancient” or “fossilized,” and talks about how you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, you should consult our attorneys on whether you may have a claim for hostile work environment. If you are terminated because you tell HR that you are unhappy with this harassment, you also may have a claim for retaliation.

Harassment Based on Pregnancy

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. Under the PDA, severe or pervasive unwelcome conduct based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition that creates an intimidating work environment may be actionable hostile work environment harassment. For example, if your coworkers frequently mimic how you walk while pregnant and insult you for needing extra restroom breaks, you may have a claim. State and local laws also prohibit pregnancy harassment.

Retain an Experienced New York City Attorney

Federal, state, and local laws protect you against hostile work environment harassment and discrimination, even if you have been fired or laid off during the coronavirus pandemic. If you suspect that you suffered from harassment or discrimination, you should call the employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We represent employees in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, along with Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Call us at (833) 529-3476 or contact us through our online form.

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"Jesse Weinstein handled my discrimination case. He was extremely patient and understanding throughout the process and remained professional and consistent even when I could not. I really felt like he had my back and I didn't have to worry. His expertise, combined with the experience of the Firm, resulted in the best possible outcome of my case. Although I wouldn't wish what I went through on anyone, things do and always will happen and I would highly recommend Jesse and this Firm to anyone facing discrimination or other workplace issues." Karen
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