Workplace discrimination is a serious matter for companies, their employees, and potential candidates for positions, as well as for independent contractors and vendors who provide services at employers’ places of business. Because employment discrimination can take many forms, laws surrounding employment discrimination are complex and ever-changing. Our Employment Discrimination Practice Group combines veteran expertise with a continuously evolving understanding of workplace misconduct to ensure that organizations and individuals alike can recognize, respond to, and prevent discrimination.
What Constitutes Employment Discrimination?
While most companies and their employees possess a basic understanding of workplace conduct that may constitute discrimination, the term applies to a broad range of actions toward a variety of protected categories of employees under local, state, and federal laws which protect an employee’s right to be free from discrimination.
Federal discrimination laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments, and the Rehabilitation Act. State and local protections exist too, in the form of human rights laws.
Types of Employment Discrimination
Major categories of employment discrimination include:
- Age – Discrimination on the basis of age is illegal when directed towards anyone over the age of 40.
- Disability – An employer may not treat a qualified employee with a disability unfairly because of that disability.
- Equal pay – Employers are required to provide the men and women in the same workplace equal pay for equal work.
- Genetics – No employee or applicant can be discriminated against because of genetic information.
- Harassment – Unwelcome conduct based on an employee’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, or genetic information is improper.
- Ethnicity, Ancestry, National origin – Employees cannot be treated unfairly because they are from a different country or because of their ethnicity.
- Pregnancy – Employers should not discriminate against a pregnant employee.
- Race – Unfair treatment due to skin color or race or because of marriage or association with someone of a certain race or color is improper.
- Religion – Companies should not discriminate based on religious, ethical, or moral beliefs of employees.
- Gender/Sex – Employers should not treat employees unfavorably due to sex or gender identity.
- Veteran status – Companies should not discriminate against employees who have provided service in the military.
New York State has also designated additional protected classes based on military and marital status, legal recreational activities, political affiliation, and even genetic information. New York City provides still more protections for citizenship status, unemployment status, caregiver status, credit history, and criminal records.
The best defense against allegations of discrimination is to have policies in place to curb biases and discriminatory actions. Employment laws and definitions of discrimination are prone to change, however, so ensuring that procedures and trainings remain up to date can be a challenge for supervisors and managers.
Bleakley Platt’s employment discrimination attorneys help employers take precautionary measures to avoid litigation by providing counseling in all aspects of workplace conduct.
We counsel clients on compliance with anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; Title IX of the Education Amendments; the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Rehabilitation Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses; and other federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws.
We review employment practices and assist employers in developing policies compliant with discrimination and sexual harassment laws, including updating employee handbooks to help companies avoid future disputes.
Bleakley Platt & Schmidt also offers innovative workplace training programs for businesses to ensure that companies comply with their local, state, and federal employment law obligations in this area.
Our Employment Discrimination Practice Group has extensive experience successfully litigating discrimination cases in the federal and state courts, as well as in mediations and arbitrations throughout the United States. If an allegation is made, our employment discrimination attorneys can also discreetly assist in an internal investigation.
An employee who believes they are a victim of workplace discrimination may have legal recourse. While employees are typically “at-will,” meaning that an employment relationship can end at the election of either the company or the employee at any time for any lawful reason, it is illegal to discriminate against employees. Accordingly, if a company unlawfully discriminates against an employee who is protected by one or more federal, state or local laws, the employee may have a legal claim.
Discriminatory action can take various forms including a reduction in scope of an employee’s duties or responsibilities, a demotion, disciplinary action, reduction in pay or benefits, refusal to hire, or termination. Employees may also need to seek counsel regarding retaliation where a company takes an adverse action against them after they have complained, given notice of, opposed, reported, or spoken out against discrimination in the workplace.
Bleakley Platt’s experienced employment law attorneys, Kathryn L. Barcroft (firstname.lastname@example.org (914) 287-6161 or Joseph DeJuiseppe (email@example.com or (914) 287-6144) can be reached for a consultation for any discrimination related matters that arise in the workplace.
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