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New York Employment Law Blog

Survey finds many insights about workplace gender inequality

Many workers in New York have probably overhead inappropriate comments about people of the opposite sex but felt unable to do anything about it. A survey conducted by Ranstad US of 1,227 workers found that half of respondents failed to speak up after someone directed an inappropriate comment at a colleague. Most people did not know what they could personally do to improve gender equality at work.

When asked what might help, however, many respondents recognized that mentoring female workers and male workers standing up for gender equality would be steps in the right direction. About half of respondents said that their workplaces did not have any programs aimed at improving careers for female employees.

New York protects workers via new GENDA law

New York State passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) on February 24, 2019. It bans discrimination in the workplace based on a person's gender identity or expression of a preferred gender. A gender identity consists of an individual's real or perceived gender, including the individual's physical appearance, expressions or general behavior. GENDA protects transgenders and others who do not identify with their birth genders.

GENDA adds additional protection for employees who are harassed at work. Older regulations prohibited employment discrimination based on age, religious beliefs, national origins and disabilities. According to GENDA, employers cannot refuse to hire job applicants because of their gender identities or expressions. Additionally, employers are not allowed to fire employees because of their gender identities. The anti-discrimination law also applies to employment agencies and occupational training programs. Discrimination in the workplace based on a person's gender or gender identity is now a serious offense.

Nursing mothers have rights in the workplace

Female workers in New York and throughout the country are covered by a variety of laws as it relates to being pregnant or a working mother. Applicable legislation includes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, it is not uncommon for mothers to face discrimination in the workplace. In one instance, a woman was awarded $1.5 million after she claimed that it wasn't possible to pump milk at work.

This is not the only way that an employer could discriminate against a worker. This could also happen if others make comments about a woman's breasts or don't provide privacy for pumping. In some cases, women are fired just for asking to pump milk at work. According to a report by the group [email protected], two-thirds of those who experienced these types of harassment lost their jobs.

Nannies often face illegal treatment by their employers

Nannies fill a critical role in the lives of working people. They are professionals that parents trust with the care and keeping of their children, which are often the most important things in their lives. Unfortunately, the importance of the job performed by a nanny does not influence the way that parents treat them.

All too often, those who hire nannies choose to treat the child care professionals whom they bring into their home with disdain or disrespect. In some cases, the family may engage in activities that are unquestionably illegal. Knowing about your rights as a child care professional can help you stand up for yourself if someone violates your rights.

Oracle sued by Department of Labor over wage practices

A lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Labor could have wide-ranging effects for employers in New York and around the country. The lawsuit targets the tech giant Oracle, and it alleges that over the past four years the company has cost workers more than $400 million in lost wages through discrimination.

According to the Department of Labor, Oracle's policies have had a discriminatory effect on employees who are black, Asian or female. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, was based upon the conclusions of a 2014 investigation into the matter by the agency. According to the lawsuit, Oracle discriminated against its workers in a number of ways. The issues began before some workers were even hired, as Oracle is alleged to have discriminated in its college and university recruitment efforts. According to the Department of Labor, Oracle hired an unusually large number of Asian workers from other countries. These workers relied on visas and their jobs with Oracle to stay in the United States. This gave Oracle tremendous leverage to depress salaries.

Revise overtime rule moving to OIRA

A new rule written by the Department of Labor is moving through the review process and may soon take effect, potentially impacting huge numbers of workers in New York and across the country. The rule will be reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is tasked with ensuring rules comply with agency requirements. The OIRA review process can take as many as 90 days without extension. That period may also be extended and there is no minimum period of OIRA review.

The rule will impact overtime payments. The DOL issued the initial rule in May 2016. It increased the salary amount required for the white collar overtime exemption to $47,476 from $23,660. It also increased the salary amount required for the highly compensated employee exemption to $134,004 from $100,000. The rule would also establish a schedule for the automatic increase of those amounts going forward. It was planned that the rule would take effect in December 2016, but a federal court held the rule invalid and enjoined its enforcement nationwide.

How breastfeeding discrimination leads to job loss

Any time a New York employer doesn't provide appropriate working conditions for breastfeeding employees, this arguably has a detrimental effect on society as a whole. According to a study, mothers who breastfeed are subject to major occupational harm. Over time, cases such as these can create a significant financial drain on society.

When breastfeeding discrimination leads to a lawsuit, victims often wait to sue until they are overwhelmed and out of other options. The study revealed that in over two-thirds of these lawsuits, the plaintiffs lost their jobs because of discrimination. This type of discrimination can clearly jeopardize a mother's economic security. It simply isn't fair for society to allow discriminators to place such a heavy burden on vulnerable mothers. Employment law is supposed to prevent wrongful termination that can essentially derail a woman's life.

Gender identity discrimination in New York City

The rights of employees take a priority in New York, so all employers must be prepared to ensure compliance with applicable laws. One area that is particularly problematic is discrimination and harassment in the workplace. No worker should have to deal with these illegal behaviors.

For people who don't have a traditional gender identity and those who aren't in heterosexual relationships, finding a workplace where they can work without issues can be challenging. The Sexual Orientation and Non-Discrimination Act seeks to protect workers from facing hostile workplaces due to these factors.

Employee Misclassification Misses the IRS Mark

In New York, some business owners are using independent contractors, also known as freelancers, to perform various tasks in order to avoid paying taxes they would have to pay for employees. Known as employee misclassification, employers classify employees as though they are freelancers. This practice is due to the fact that the employer does not need to pay a freelancer's Social Security or Medicare taxes. Independent contractors pay their own taxes because they are self-employed.

Both federal and state agencies are on the lookout for employers who classify their employees as independent contractors. Employers who are caught via tax audits must pay fines. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandates which person is an employee and which person is an independent contractor. If the employer plans a person's work schedule or supervises the individual, then the person is typically an employee. An employee receives a salary. A freelancer is paid a designated fee for performing a particular job.

Law heads to governor's desk for signature

The New York state legislature approved a bill called the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. It would ban employer discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and the governor of the state is expected to sign it into law. The law seeks to provide greater protections for transgender individuals and others who don't conform to gender norms. If the law does pass, New York would become at least the 22nd state to offer such protection.

Furthermore, the District of Columbia also bans discrimination based on gender identity or expression. However, the issue is currently only being resolved on the state level. Court cases at the federal level have had mixed outcomes, and the Supreme Court has not decided to make a decision about the matter. Therefore, employers must rely on state law or their own judgment as it relates to discrimination based on expression of gender.

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