COVID-19: What Employers Need to Know

By Douglas Lipsky

With New York, New Jersey and much of the nation on lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, employers and employees face unique challenges. At Lipsky Lowe, we are committed to helping employers and workers navigate this situation in the weeks and months ahead. Our legal team is here to help you resolve any pressing employment-related issues that may arise. 

To keep our clients and our staff safe, however, we are making changes to our practice by providing consultations through teleconferencing and video conferencing. If you have been the victim of employment discrimination or you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, it is critically important to know your rights.

What is employment discrimination?

Employment discrimination occurs when employment decisions (e.g. hiring, firing, compensating) are made based on a legally protected characteristic. Under federal law, these characteristics include race, sex, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, disability and genetic information. Local and state laws offer greater protection because they include characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender identity and apply to virtually all employers.

Generally, there are two forms of employment discrimination:

  • Disparate treatment discrimination occurs when an employer treats a member of a protected class less favorably than a similarly situated employee or job candidate. This may involve exclusively promoting men rather than women or refusing to hire an applicant who identifies as “non-binary.”
  • Disparate impact discrimination is less obvious because is occurs when an employment policy is applied to all employees but has a disproportionately adverse impact on members of a protected class. For example, refusing to hire a job candidate with an arrest record may have a disparate impact on African-American men. 

Because employers typically conceal their discriminatory motives, it takes a skilled employment law attorney to protect your rights.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is considered a form of unlawful discrimination under local, state, and federal law. Generally, there are two types of sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo occurs when an employer, typically a person in a position of authority (e.g. owner, supervisor, manager), demands sexual favors as a condition of employment, or in exchange for any employment benefit such as a raise, bonus, or promotion.
  • Hostile work environment involves an employee being subjected to unwelcome conduct, comments or displays by anyone in the workplace (e.g. supervisor, coworker, customer).

It is worth noting that New York and New Jersey have taken steps to strengthen worker protections against sexual harassment.

The Takeaway

While we work together to get through this public health crisis, employment-related issues are likely to arise. When you consult with Lipsky Lowe, we will be the strength in your corner.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.