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What You Need To Know About Workplace Discrimination

By Douglas Lipsky

Despite the fact that workplace discrimination in New York and every other state is illegal, it happens more than many people realize. If you are experiencing discrimination at work, you have strong legal protections under a variety of anti-discrimination laws. By getting in touch with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer, you can put a stop to discrimination in your workplace.   

What Is Discrimination in the Workplace?

Workplace discrimination occurs when employment decisions such as hiring, firing, compensating and promoting are based on an employee or applicant’s personal attributes, such as race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or another protected characteristic. 

Discrimination can be intentional or unintentional, but any type of workplace discrimination is prohibited under federal, state, and local laws, including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA)
  • The Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act (GINA)
  • New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL)
  • New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL)

Notably, workplace harassment based on an individual’s protected status is also considered a form of unlawful employment discrimination.

5 Common Types of Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination and harassment can impact anyone; common types of workplace discrimination include:

Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant is treated unfairly based on their race, color, ethnicity, or country of national origin. Racial discrimination may involve not hiring a qualified Black candidate, passing over a Latino employee for a promotion in favor of a less qualified individual, or creating a hostile work environment based on an employee’s race. 

Sex and Gender Discrimination

Despite the fact that women outnumber men in the workforce, sex and gender discrimination are common. This form of discrimination also includes discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Sex and gender discrimination may also involve pregnancy discrimination and parental discrimination. For example, an employer cannot fire or demote a woman because she is pregnant. Similarly, an employer cannot discriminate against parents, both female and male, by denying them family leave to care for a newborn. 

Age Discrimination

Individuals who are 40 and older are a protected class under the ADEA, while the NYHRL and NYCHRL apply to those who are 18 and older. In short, a person cannot be fired or passed over for a promotion solely because of their age. Treating older employees differently based on their age and assumed level of ability is also illegal. For example, it is unlawful to tell someone to retire because they are too old to perform their job duties. 

Disability Discrimination

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals because of a disability or perceived disability. Employers must treat employees with disabilities fairly and provide them with equal employment opportunities and equal pay. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers (e.g. modified work schedule, restructuring job duties) as long as such accommodations do not impose an undue hardship on the company.

Religious Discrimination 

Federal, state, and local laws also prohibit workplace discrimination based on someone’s religious beliefs. Religious discrimination may involve barring employees from wearing religious garb (e.g. hajib, yarmulke), retaliating against an employee for taking off for religious holidays or observances, or not providing an employee with breaks for prayer. 

Why You Need an Employment Discrimination Attorney

Proving workplace discrimination can be challenging because employers have the upper hand over employees who depend on their paycheck. Employers also know how to disguise their discriminatory motives as legitimate business decisions. It takes an experienced employment lawyer to level the playing field and protect your rights. 

Your attorney can conduct an investigation, subpoena employment policies and personnel records, interview any witnesses, and handle all communications with your employer and their attorneys. While many employment discrimination claims can be settled out of court, your attorney can file an employment discrimination lawsuit on your behalf. If you believe you have been treated unfairly at work, contact our office today to learn how we can help.

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.