Kenneth Abeyratne is a Junior Associate with the firm and graduated from New York University with a B.A. in Economics and a minor in Business Studies in May 2013. He then graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with a J.D. in New York City in 2018. Mr. Abeyratne began his career at various law firms and the New York County District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. He also worked as lead paralegal at a plaintiffs’ employment law firm for several years and collaborated with attorneys in all aspects of trial preparation. He is admitted to the New York Bar as well as the Eastern District of New York and the Southern District of New York. He is also member of the New York City Bar Association and New York State Bar Association.
Many of the cases with which Mr. Abeyratne assists our New York City employment attorneys involve discrimination under federal, state, and city laws. Employment discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently based on a protected characteristic. Federal, state, and city laws protect different characteristics. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against discrimination based on a disability. Most federal anti-discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law are more expansive than federal law and provide protection for a greater number of characteristics.
The New York State Human Rights Law covers employers with at least four employees. Under the New York State Human Rights Law, it is unlawful for an employer to take an adverse step against an employee or job applicant due to their race, color, age, creed, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, disability, domestic violence victim status, military status, predisposing genetic characteristics, or criminal or arrest record. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees because they filed a complaint, opposed an illegal discriminatory practice, or helped in an investigation or proceeding related to employment discrimination.
The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in the city based on protected characteristics. Protected characteristics include color, age, citizenship status, gender, disability, gender identity, marital status and partnership status, national origin, race, pregnancy, religion, sexual orientation, veteran or active military service member status, caregiver status, arrest or conviction record, credit history, unemployment status, domestic violence victim status, and salary history. Employers with at least four employees need to comply with the New York City Human Rights Law, irrespective of whether they employ part-time or full-time employees and whether these employees are paid on the books or not. Paid and unpaid interns have protections under this law, which is widely considered one of the most progressive in the nation.
Certain types of workplace discrimination are fairly clear-cut. If your employer terminates you because of your religion, and the employer is covered by federal, state, or local laws, this is workplace discrimination. However, most employers are aware of at least the existence of employment discrimination laws, and they are subtler about their discriminatory practices. This is one reason why it is important to talk to an employment discrimination lawyer if you suspect, but are not sure, that you have been subjected to employment discrimination based on a protected characteristic.
Moreover, employers can be held accountable not only for intentional discriminatory treatment but also for policies that have a discriminatory impact on members of protected classes. They can be held liable for a disparate impact, even though the employer did not intend the disparate impact. For example, an employer might be held liable for English-only policies that do not fulfill a specific purpose. It could be held liable for failing to provide a religious accommodation when it was capable of doing so. It could be held liable for not intervening when an employee is being racially harassed by coworkers.
If you have been harmed by employment discrimination or harassment at your workplace, Mr. Abeyratne and our other staff members and attorneys are ready to assist you with asserting your rights. Call Phillips & Associates at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form. We handle employment litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, as well as Westchester County, Long Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.