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New York Employment Law Blog

Workplace protections in New York are extensive

The New York State Human Rights Law provides workplace protections that go beyond those provided by federal law. The Civil Rights Act protects all American workers from workplace discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, national origin or gender, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination based on age. New York's Human Rights Law protects workers in the Empire State from discrimination based on additional factors including sexual orientation, marital status, military status, criminal arrest records and genetic characteristics.

Conduct is considered a violation of state or federal employment protections when it creates a workplace environment that a reasonable person would consider offensive, hostile or intimidating. Petty slights or minor annoyances would not meet this standard, but behavior such as mockery or ridicule, offensive objects or images, threats or physical assaults and offensive language or humor would be considered workplace harassment.

Results of workplace discrimination survey released

Discrimination in the workplace is far more common in New York and around the country than it is in Europe according to a recent survey from Glassdoor. The review website polled workers from the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, and the results suggest that discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender, age or sexual orientation is more prevalent where English is the primary language. More than 6 out of 10 of the American workers surveyed and over half of the British workers polled said that they had witnessed or experienced workplace discrimination. In France and Germany, the figures fell to 43% and 37%, respectively.

America was the country where workers were most likely to say that they experienced or witnessed workplace racism, but ageism was the form of discrimination most commonly reported in both the United States and the United Kingdom. One thing that workers from all of the countries seemed to agree on was that their employers were not doing enough to address employment discrimination.

Study examines workplace discrimination

Employers in New York are required by law to provide their employees with a safe working environment, and they are prohibited from discriminating against employees or potential employees on the basis of race or other protected characteristics. According to a study by Glassdoor, though, around 33% of working adults have witnessed or experienced racism at work. The study involved responses from more than 5,000 people and found that 55% of workers in the U.S. thought their companies should increase efforts toward diversity and inclusion.

The study covered employees in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany and found that the U.S. had the highest occurrence of sexism, racism and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Men were more likely, at 31%, to encounter racism than their female counterparts, at 19%. People in the millennial generation were more than twice as likely to make a report of prejudice than employees who were 55 years old or older. About 42% of millennial respondents said they had witnessed or experienced workplace racism.

Common employee rights you should know

Many years ago, employees didn't have any rights. The employers could do whatever they wanted, and the workers either had to deal with it to earn a paycheck or they could leave. Now, New York workers have particular rights that they can count on to keep them safe in the workplace.

It is imperative that you know these rights so that you can react if an employer violates them. There are many different categories that you need to be aware of. For the most part, these rights begin during the hiring process and continue on through the end of a person's job with a company.

People take criticism worse from women

The results of a university study indicate that both men and women have more negative reactions when they receive criticism from a woman than from a man. This has implications for the future of workplace leadership in New York and across the country. It may mean that women in leadership positions will turn to less-than-optimal management strategies in order to be heard or that they may have less interest in leadership in the first place.

The study showed that criticism from women reduced job satisfaction among employees more than criticism from men. Additionally, employees were more than twice as turned off by a company if they received criticism from a woman there. In the companies that make up the S&P 500, women account for 45% of the employees, but they hold only 37% of middle management positions, 26% of senior management positions and 5% of CEO positions. This is despite the fact that women have started to score higher than men in leadership competency testing and have passed men in terms of educational attainment.

Discrimination continues to hold back women workers

Courts in New York and across the country are awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court over the legal understanding of sex discrimination. The Obama administration's Justice Department and several federal appeals courts say that the ban on sex discrimination includes a prohibition on discriminating against LGBT employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, other courts and the Trump administration's Department of Justice have argued that it does not. While this legal battle is continuing, there are also many standard sex discrimination issues that continue to affect women in the workplace.

Many people may not realize the extent to which sex discrimination continues to hold back women workers, especially since so few civil rights cases of this type make their way to court. Many women do not even file complaints with their companies or relevant government agencies because of their legitimate fear of unlawful retaliation. In addition, past rulings have made it more difficult for women to come together in class action lawsuits to challenge discriminatory practices of larger corporations.

Activists speak out against natural hair discrimination

African Americans in New York and throughout the country sometimes experience discrimination because of their natural hairstyles. Activists working for the Dove Self-Esteem Project and the CROWN Coalition recently organized an event on the West Coast to urge school administrators to accept natural hairstyles instead of shaming and disciplining students who choose not to treat their hair chemically.

Speakers at the educational event shared stories about suffering discrimination at school because of their hair. Many of them chose to protest their treatment, but they acknowledged that the issue took away from educational time. The event also brought attention to The CROWN Act petition. Only two states have approved The CROWN Act, which bans natural hair discrimination by schools and employers. Activists want to take the law nationwide.

Federal overtime salary threshold to rise to $35,568

Managerial and administrative workers who earn more than a certain amount are not generally entitled to overtime pay. Employers in New York City with 11 or more workers must pay overtime to all workers who earn less than $58,500 per year. This figure will also apply to employers with 10 or fewer workers in 2020. The overtime threshold is far less generous in other parts of the country where federal rules apply.

The federal overtime threshold was set at $23,660 in 2004. During the Obama administration, an effort was made to increase the threshold to about $47,000. The Department of Labor said that a large adjustment was needed to keep the threshold in line with increases in the cost of living since the 1970s. However, that initiative was challenged in the courts and struck down by a judge in Texas.

Employees deserve their just compensation in New York

Many employers in New York are ethical and want to compensate their employees what they are due. Others try to dip into the pay of their workers to pad their own pockets. If you work in this state, you should keep a close eye on your pay so that you can find out if you are being paid appropriately.

The state has some straightforward pay requirements for most workers. Others are a bit more complex. For example, fast food workers who maintain their own uniform have particular guidelines for compensation based on the number of hours worked and the geographical location. You should find out exactly what laws apply to your situation.

UPS settles pregnancy discrimination case with EEOC out of court

The United Parcel Service, Inc. has reached a conciliation agreement with the New York district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to make workers who experienced pregnancy discrimination financially whole. The district office's director praised the global delivery company for resolving the problem outside of court. The settlement calls for $2.25 million in payments to employees who incurred losses due to pregnancy discrimination from 2012 to 2014. The agreement calculates payments based on the difference between short-term disability pay collected by workers and what they would have earned on the job.

The pregnancy discrimination problem arose prior to 2015 because the company did not provide light-duty accommodations to pregnant workers. However, UPS did grant light-duty assignments to workers recovering from on-the-job injuries or those who had disabilities or some driving restrictions. A pregnant worker complained on the basis that the company policies violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Although this worker reached a settlement with UPS, the EEOC chose to investigate treatment of all pregnant workers at the company.

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