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New York Employment Law Blog

Remedying discrimination against government employees

When federal employees in New York face discrimination in the workplace, they may turn to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pursue a complaint about the mistreatment. The EEOC is a federal agency that deals with issues related to employment discrimination. It has the power to issue orders providing relief to victims of discrimination in both the federal government and private corporations. There are several types of remedies that the EEOC can order for a government worker found to be subjected to disparate treatment discrimination on the job.

In general, people can receive both monetary relief and equitable relief. The former includes payments like back pay and compensatory damages for expenses incurred due to workplace discrimination while the latter includes training, reinstatement for terminated workers or appointment to a specific position previously denied the worker. The EEOC can also order federal agencies to take anti-discrimination action, including retraining management, notifying all workers about how to pursue discrimination claims or disciplining those responsible.

The EEOC's record on discrimination

Federal law prohibits discrimination in New York workplaces based on characteristics like sex, race, national origin, disability and religion. The federal agency that oversees and enforces these laws is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, better known as the EEOC. In recent years, some individuals and organizations have begun to question the effectiveness of the EEOC in protecting the rights of workers.

Recently, a well-known human resources consultancy performed an analysis of the EEOC's record in addressing complaints. The study showed that the agency did take action in the vast majority of cases filed by workers over the past two decades. This is significant because a victim of discrimination is only permitted to file a federal lawsuit against an employer after reporting their case to the EEOC.

Selective enforcement may be discrimination

Workers in New York and around the country typically strive to follow an employer's rules about workplace conduct. When an employee fails to follow the rules, employers are allowed to appropriately discipline the worker. However, there are circumstances in which a worker who is a member of a protected class may be able to take action against an employer for selectively enforcing rules in a way that could be discriminatory.

Most employers provide workers with a handbook or other set of printed rules for workplace conduct. Employees know from the beginning that it is important to follow these rules to remain in good standing within the organization.

Riot Games settles gender discrimination lawsuit

Some New York gamers may have heard about a class action lawsuit brought against Riot Games in November 2018. On Aug. 23, the company released a statement along with the plaintiffs saying they had reached a settlement without going to trial. Riot Games said it felt like it had a strong case but that it was best for the company and its employees to move past the issue.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in California by one current and one former employee, the culture at the company normalized sexual harassment. The employees said they had been denied career advancement and equal pay because of their gender. In August 2018, similar accusations had been made against Riot, and the company said it was overhauling its policies. In December 2018, the CEO was suspended for promoting that culture. However, in May, over 100 employees walked out of the studio in Los Angeles after the company introduced a policy requiring arbitration for any disputes.

The several ways in which employers can steal your tips

Working as a tipped employee in New York can be a great way to make a living. Although your hourly wage may be much lower than even minimum wage employees, when you factor in the gratuity that restaurant patrons leave for you, your hourly wage can be substantially higher. In fact, at some of the nicest restaurants, you could command a very livable professional wage as a member of the wait or bar staff.

Unfortunately, although your manager or employer profits directly off of your hard work because you keep customers coming back to the business, they may still begrudge you the tips that generous customers leave behind. There are several ways in which managers or companies can illegally try to deprive their workers of their hard-earned tips and gratuities.

FMLA gives broad coverage for employee leave

The Family Medical Leave Act gives many employees in New York the right to take time off work to provide care for family members. However, the regulations put out by the Department of Labor give only a little direction regarding what the term "care" actually means. The DOL acknowledges that it includes psychological as well as physical care and covers situations where the family member cannot handle basic hygienic, nutritional or medical needs.

In an opinion letter, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL said the FMLA gives a parent the right to leave work to attend meetings at a child's school to discuss the child's Individualized Education Program. In the case, meetings occurred four times during the school year. Several professionals, like a school psychologist, speech pathologist, therapists, school administrators and teachers, attended the meetings. The parent's employer had told her the FMLA did not cover her attendance at the meetings.

Men and women suffer nearly equal amounts of age bias at work

New York readers may assume that women are more likely than men to encounter ageism in the workplace. However, according to a new survey by the website Fairgodboss, that's not the case.

In order to learn more about ageism in the American workplace, researchers for Fairgodboss, which caters to professional women, polled 1,000 workers who were age 40 and above. Surprisingly, they found that 72% of respondents had never experienced ageism. However, 13% of male respondents and 12% of female respondents said they believed their age stopped them from landing a job. Meanwhile, 8% of men felt they missed out on promotions due to their age compared to 7% of women. In addition, 12% of men said they had heard co-workers make negative remarks about their age compared to 10% of women.

Memo from Google employee claims discrimination, retaliation

Some people in New York may have heard that Google has faced criticism for its handling of sexual harassment in the workplace, which culminated in a walkout in November in protest. The company revised its sexual harassment policies in response, but critics say the system still does not protect employees, and the organizers of the walkout faced retaliation. Google has come under further scrutiny with the posting of a memo by an employee who says she faced pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.

Although Google says it prohibits retaliation and investigates all claims of discrimination, the memo describes an atmosphere in which the system is breaking down. The initial problems faced by the memo writer happened when she reported a manager for disparaging comments about a mother in the workplace. HR failed to protect her from retaliation after making the report, and she was faced with a choice between staying in her situation and switching teams. The latter choice would hamper her career development.

Woman honored for reporting harassment at Coast Guard Academy

New York employees who report discrimination and harassment in the workplace are not supposed to face retaliation afterwards. Furthermore, employers have an obligation to pursue these complaints in a fair manner. However, this does not always happen even in organizations like the Coast Guard.

A 35-year-old woman was recognized on July 30 as part of National Whistleblower Appreciation Day at the National Whistleblowers Center for her efforts to draw attention to bullying at the Coast Guard Academy. She says that over her four years there, she worked her way up the chain of command to the civil rights reporting process for the Department of Homeland Security about the harassment and discrimination that she faced as a member of the teaching staff starting in 2014.

Bringing and resolving a wrongful termination claim

Wrongful termination is a tragedy for many people. As an employee, you are working because you need to earn money to live. Being let go unexpectedly can lead to financial difficulties. When the termination is because you did something that is protected by law, such as filing a report about discrimination, harassment or other illegal activities, things get even more difficult.

It is possible to pursue legal actions against the former employer if wrongful termination was a factor. This is an attempt to pursue back pay and other financial damages that occurred because of the termination. It is imperative that you carefully consider your options when you are in this position because what you decide to do can have a big impact on your future.

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