Other Areas of Practice

New York City Attorneys Advocating for the Rights of Workers

At Phillips & Associates, our New York City employment lawyers handle the full spectrum of litigation that arises in this area. In addition to negotiating settlements and taking discrimination lawsuits to trial, we also handle matters related to arbitration, disputes before the Division of Human Rights, EEOC representation, failure to pay overtime claims, hostile work environment cases, retaliation claims, severance agreements, workplace harassment, and wrongful termination.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution like mediation. Each side presents evidence and cross-examines witnesses, but an arbitrator rather than a judge will issue a ruling. Employers often include arbitration clauses in employment agreements. These clauses require employees to engage in the arbitration process prior to taking an employer to court. This process tends to favor the employer, and it may be wise to consult an employment attorney in the New York City area if you are concerned about this type of clause in your employment agreement.

Division of Human Rights

The New York State Human Rights Law is an anti-discrimination law that has a broader scope and covers more people than federal anti-discrimination laws do. It covers employees who work for employers with at least four employees. Unlike federal law, the state law is enforced by New York's Division of Human Rights. To sue under the state law, you need to file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights, which will review your claim and investigate it. The Division will decide whether there is probable cause to find that discrimination occurred. If it finds probable cause, there will be a hearing before an administrative judge. If it finds no probable cause, the complaint is dismissed but can be appealed.

EEOC Representation

Many federal anti-discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In order to bring a lawsuit under federal law, you will need to first file a charge with the EEOC. In New York, the EEOC requires discrimination claims to be filed within 300 days of a discriminatory act, so you should consult an attorney as soon as you suspect that you may have a claim. The EEOC investigates. Sometimes when the EEOC finds that there was discrimination and may issue a finding of probably cause. The EEOC may then ask the employer to undergo conciliation to fix the discrimination. Additionally, the EEOC has a mediation program whereby it will try to work with both the employee and the employer to come to a settlement. Most employers will be represented by counsel during the conciliation process and the mediation process. You may want to be represented by an attorney as well during these proceedings. In other cases, the EEOC will sue the employer in federal court. In some cases, it simply notifies you of its findings. When the EEOC does not find discrimination, it will also dismiss the charge and let you know. After filing with the EEOC, many people receive a “Right to Sue”. There are specific deadlines that must be adhered after you receive your Right to Sue, otherwise you may not bring your case in Federal court. Phillips & Associates has represented hundreds of employees during the EEOC process.

Failure to Pay Overtime

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides rules that an employer must follow with regard to overtime and wages. In New York, workers covered by overtime laws need to be paid 1½ times their regular rate of pay for all of the hours that they work over 40 hours in a work week. A work week is a consecutive seven-day period. Many employers do not pay their workers the overtime pay that is owed to them, other misclassify job title claiming the employee is exempt from overtime laws when they are not. You may want to consult with an attorney to understand your rights.

Hostile Work Environment

When managers, supervisors, or coworkers make discriminatory remarks or bully you based on a protected characteristic, it can create a hostile work environment. Characteristics protected under federal, state, or local laws include race, sex, gender, religion, disability, older age, sexual orientation, and national origin. In order to sue for a hostile work environment under federal law, the conduct must be severe or pervasive. Unless it is very severe, one instance of harassment is usually not enough to be considered sufficient to create a hostile work environment. However the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) provides broader protection to its employees. Any actions above a petty slight or trivial inconvenience may be actionable. It’s important to discuss the hostile work environment you are experiencing with an attorney to see if you have a claim. You do not have to be fired in order to have a claim for a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment including sexual comments, requests for sexual favors, unwanted touching and grouping are all examples of a hostile work environment. Additionally, racist comments, cartoons, symbols can lead to a hostile work environment. Most of the time the harassment comes from a person in power. This scares the employee even more and many times the victim is afraid to complain for fear of retaliation.

Retaliation

Many people are rightfully afraid to complain about discrimination or harassment. Anti-discrimination law addresses this legitimate concern by protecting employees who try to exercise their rights in good faith. In most cases, you can show retaliation by proving that you engaged in a protected activity, your employer took an adverse employment action against you, and there was a causal connection between your protected activity and the adverse employment action. You may then have two or more claims against your employer one for the original discrimination and another one for the retaliation. Sometimes the retaliation claim is stronger than the underling discrimination claim.

Severance Agreements

Often, employers try to protect themselves when terminating an employee by presenting them with a severance or separation agreement. The agreement will usually include a provision that prevents the employee from bringing claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination. In some cases, employees do not understand that they have a choice about whether to sign the agreement. Sometimes no severance is offered, and in some cases, the severance that is offered is a nominal sum that is not sufficient to compensate you for damages that you may have suffered as a result of the employer's improper or discriminatory conduct. You should consult a New York City employment attorney before signing an agreement.

Workplace Harassment

Federal, state, and local laws prohibit workplace harassment on the basis of protected characteristics. For example, the New York City Human Rights Law prohibits harassment based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, citizenship status, marital status, or prior criminal convictions. Harassment can include any sort of offensive remarks or conduct. In federal court, o be actionable, it must be either quite severe or pervasive. However New York City offers its employees greater protection against discrimination. In New York City the harassment merely has to rise above a petty slight or trivial inconvenience to be actionable. Sometimes a supervisor will attempt to bribe an employee for sexual favors. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or manager offers you an employment benefit in exchange for a sexual favor. A supervisor may also threaten to fire you if you don’t participate in s sexual relationship. This is also illegal. You should speak with an attorney if you are experiencing any type of harassment in the workplace to determine if you have a claim.

Wrongful Termination

Most employment in New York City is at will, which means that the employment relationship can be ended arbitrarily and for almost any reason by either party. However, a wrongful termination claim may exist in a limited range of circumstances. Employers cannot terminate an employee when doing so would violate public policy as set forth in federal, state, or local laws. For example, an employer is not permitted to lay off only its elderly workers. These workers would have a wrongful termination claim. Similarly, they cannot fire you because of your race; you would have cause to bring a wrongful termination claim. In some cases, an employment contract may require that your employer only fire you for good cause.

Consult an Employment Lawyer in New York City or the Surrounding Areas

It can be unsettling to get into a dispute with your employer. In most cases, an employer has significantly more resources than an employee. This is why it is so important to retain an experienced employment litigator. At Phillips & Associates, we may be able to represent you in discrimination lawsuits and other types of employment disputes. Contact us at (212) 248-7431 or via our online form.

PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
45 Broadway, Suite 620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107
info@tpglaws.com

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