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New York Employment Law Blog

Tech employees protest forced arbitration clauses

Workers at some of the best-known technology companies in New York and across the country are taking action to pressure these firms on how they deal with employee complaints. One group of Google workers launched a social media campaign on Jan. 15, in which they posted on Instagram and Twitter urging a change in corporate policy on workplace harassment cases. The campaign focuses particularly on forced arbitration agreements, clauses found in employment contracts that bar employees from filing a court action against the companies they work for over disputes that emerge in the workplace.

Google and several other firms recently stopped this practice for cases related to sexual harassment and assault complaints after a wide range of revelations regarding the mistreatment of female employees in the industry. These changes came after the #MeToo movement that affected a number of industries, including entertainment and politics as well as technology. However, the arbitration clauses remain in place even for matters relating to other serious social issues with implications for the tech industry, including age and racial discrimination.

U.S. House bans discrimination against LGBTQ staff

New York readers may be interested to learn that the newly Democrat-led House of Representatives passed new employment protections for LGBTQ staff and job applicants on Jan. 3. The new rules, which were part of a larger bill of regulations, will govern the freshly-convened 116th Congress for the next two years.

The bill marks the first time lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers have ever been expressly protected from employment discrimination in the House of Representatives. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., one of just eight openly LGBTQ House members, advocated for the new protections, saying it was simply the "right thing to do." Meanwhile, a representative for the national LGBTQ rights organization Human Rights Campaign called the new rules "historic."

Male Disney Cruise employee alleges workplace discrimination

While women are far more likely to suffer sexual harassment and workplace discrimination on the job in New York, men can also be victimized at work. A former labor analyst at Disney Cruise Line has filed a lawsuit against the company, saying that his female manager bullied him about his age, engaged in inappropriate and unwanted conversations about her sex life with other employees and refused to promote him. The man says that he faced both sex and age discrimination on the job, a situation that may be statistically uncommon but can be equally damaging on an individual level.

According to the workplace discrimination lawsuit, the manager called the man names like a "stuffy old fart" and discriminated against him by moving him to a windowless office, refusing to provide him with workplace technology and denying him promotions despite him having a higher level of seniority and experience than people who were promoted. The lawsuit does not specify the ages of the employee and manager except to note that the employee is older than 40 and the manager younger than 40. Age discrimination laws apply only to workers 40 and older.

Equal pay for equal work is protected by the law

For many New York residents, equal pay and equal compensation for work are important issues. The freedom that employees have to work in an environment free of discrimination is backed by a number of federal laws. These laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the United States.

These laws are very broad, covering compensation an individual receives for work, be it stock options, life insurance, vacation pay, salary, or bonus pay. According to these laws, men and women should be paid equally for equal work. This does not mean that the jobs need to be identical, but they should be equal in substance. According to these laws, the focus is not on job title but instead on the substance of the job. This includes the skill required to perform the job, the effort needed, and the working conditions.

What is subtle or indirect discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination is never appropriate in the workplace. It doesn't matter if the behavior is subtle or blatant. Employers must take a firm stance against this type of behavior. This is usually outlined in company policies.

It tends to be easy to recognize blatant discrimination, which can include harassment and similar actions. Spotting indirect or subtle forms usually isn't as easy. If you think you might be the victim of discrimination based on a protected status, you should know some important points.

Mothers face discrimination in the medical field

In a study published in 2017 in JAMA, roughly one-third of physicians who are mothers say that they face discrimination at work. This is despite the fact that being a doctor is one of the most prestigious jobs that New York and other workers can hold. The research looked at 947 responses to a survey posted in a Facebook group in 2016. Among the issues that the participants cited included a lack of support while pregnant and less pay compared to their colleagues.

They also said that there were fewer opportunities for advancement. In some cases, this was because they were not selected to participate in events that could have help advance their careers. Discrimination in the health care field can result in lower levels of patient care. In general, patients treated by women have lower readmission rates compared to those treated by men.

How to collect past due wages from an employer

When a person puts forth effort for a job and the employer refuses to pay, the employee is left with some unpleasant emotions as well as some unpaid bills. Fortunately, there are federal and state laws available to protect a New York employee from an employer who fails or refuses to pay.

There are both federal and state laws defining when wages are due. When wages are overdue, penalties may apply. Employers are normally given time limits for payment of wages. The time limits vary depending on whether the employee is to be paid by the day, the week, bimonthly or monthly.

Report says racism present at Tesla

A report published by the New York Times examined the dynamics at a Tesla factory and found evidence of racism in the workplace. The newspaper spoke with more than 24 former and current black employees of the carmaker, who said they had experienced racist taunts, seen swastikas drawn in company bathrooms, been forced to perform degrading tasks and been denied promotions.

In 2017, three former employees of Tesla filed a civil case alleging that they had been subjected to slurs and racist drawings made by both supervisors and coworkers. One of the plaintiffs said that he complained to supervisors about the behavior but that the company failed to take disciplinary action. The founder and CEO of the company, Elon Musk, was privy to shenanigans among his employees on no less than two different occasions, but responded by saying that if a person is a jerk to someone else and later apologizes, it's important to accept the apology and be thick-skinned.

Facebook under fire for alleged discrimination

A former employee of Facebook has made statements claiming that the social media giant failed to stop discriminatory behavior against black users and employees. People who use Facebook in New York might be interested in the details of the situation, which raises employment discrimination issues. The former employee publicly posted an internal Facebook memo he had written, calling out the company for removing posts by black people who were speaking out against racism.

The man resigned from Facebook in November 2018; he was formerly a strategic partner manager with the social media giant. During the more than a year that the man worked for Facebook, he said black employees were discouraged by management from acting black. Other black employees have said they were accosted or treated aggressively by security personnel on the Facebook campus. Lack of diversity may be another problem for the company, where less than four percent of employees are black.

How can employees know when they are victims of retaliation?

Employees are sometimes placed in a difficult position if they see their employer do something that is illegal or unethical. They might want to report it but they also fear that they will face adverse employment actions as a result. The law forbids employers from retaliating against employees who make complaints about factual events, as well as several other situations.

The protections against retaliation begin when a person applies for a job and continue during the entire time they work there. When an employer retaliates, they can face serious penalties. Employees might decide to file a formal complaint about the retaliation, as well as the other issues they've noticed in the workplace.

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