Like most other jurisdictions, New York is an at-will employment state. Employers may fire workers at any time for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. Therefore, many workers assume they have no legal rights and they are basically at the mercy of their employers. However, employers cannot fire workers for an illegal reason. These protections extend to other points of the relationship as well, such as the hiring process. Furthermore, both employees and potential employees are entitled to fair treatment on the job.
The experienced New York workplace discrimination lawyers at the Pianko Law Group are familiar with all the intricate state and federal laws in this area. So, we quickly identify your legal options. Then, we fight for your legal and financial rights. Furthermore, because of our experience, we are not intimidated by the posse of lawyers most employers have to protect their interests. In fact, we are usually able to quickly settle disputes out of court, so you quickly get the compensation and justice you deserve.
Federal Workplace Discrimination Laws
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to workers in protected classes. It requires employers to treat these individuals just like their regular workers. Some examples of protected classes include:
Many Millennials now qualify for protection under the CRA and supporting laws, like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, because they are over forty years old. Employers cannot take adverse action against these workers strictly due to their age. Some recent legal changes have made ADEA cases difficult, but not impossible, to prove in court.
The law recently expanded in this area. Pretty much all workers on the LGBTQ spectrum are now protected under the sexual orientation umbrella. However, employers have rights in this area as well. So, the law in many areas, especially regarding rights for transgender employees, is still emerging.
Sooner or later, pretty much every female worker in America comes face-to-face with pregnancy discrimination. Sometimes, this discrimination is overt. Many employers flatly refuse to hire pregnant women. However, much more often, the bias is subtle. For example, an employer might transfer a pregnant worker to a less desirable position which the employer believes is “safer for the baby.” But employers don’t get to make these decisions. They belong to the women themselves.
Over the years, lawmakers have added a number of supporting laws to the CRA. We mentioned the ADEA above. Other federal antidiscrimination laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and GINA (the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act).
Other federal laws apply to protected activities. Labor organization is the most common protected activity. Employers cannot discipline employees who work to form or break up a union. Similar protections apply to associated activities, like promoting pro-union messages, even if a worker uses a company channel, like a company e-mail account, to promote such activity. Political affiliation is also a protected activity, in some cases.
State and Local Workplace Discrimination Laws
Although New York is an at-will state, as mentioned above, a wide range of state and local laws are on the books. Many of them are even broader than their federal law cousins. So, our New York workplace discrimination lawyers often use these laws to protect your rights.
To an extent, the New York City Human Rights Law overlaps with the CRA and some other federal antidiscrimination laws. But there are some unique protections as well, such as:
- Marital status,
- Lactation during pregnancy,
- Military veteran status,
- Credit report,
- Criminal history,
- Salary background, and
- Domestic abuse victim status.
Courts broadly interpret the NYCHRL’s provisions. Essentially, if there is any coverage dispute, a tie always goes to the runner. Furthermore, this law extended LGBTQ protections to workers long before these protections were available to workers in other states.
The New York State Human Rights Law is a similar piece of legislation. Additionally, the NYSHRL specifically prohibits employer retaliation. So, plaintiffs need only prove that employers reacted inappropriately. There’s no need to prove discrimination as such.
Especially for employees who earn at or near the minimum wage, every dollar counts, and so does every minute. There is also a broader issue. All workers deserve a fair day’s wage for a hard day’s work. Some common legal issues include:
Some workers, such as executives, professionals, and salespeople, are exempt from federal and state overtime laws. Many employers abuse these categories or require employees to work “off the clock” so they do not exceed forty hours in a week, which is usually the cutoff for overtime pay.
Meal breaks are usually unpaid, unless the employer requires workers to attend a lunch meeting or to eat meals at their desks. In these situations, these meal breaks are usually paid. “Donning and doffing” is another common problem. Employers who require workers to stand in security lines or put on and take off special clothes must pay employees for this time.
We mentioned overtime issues above. Illegal tip sharing and illegal deductions are serious problems as well. Non-customer-facing employees, such as dishwashers, and management-level employees, such as shift managers, aren’t entitled to a tip share. Furthermore, the law only authorizes some paycheck deductions. Others, such as loan payments, require individual employee authorization.
Worker misclassification is also a problem in New York. For example, some employers classify entry-level employees as “interns” to avoid paying them a minimum wage. But the law decides who is an intern and how is an employee. Bosses cannot unilaterally make this decision.