Discrimination at Workplace: How and When to File a Complaint
Author: Employment Discrimination attorney Alena Shautsova
For the most part, many of us do not choose their colleagues and/or supervisors. We come to the workplace and have to “deal” with the people and practices that have already been established before us. Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish between “that’s how we do it here” and “that’s seem illegal.” So, what do you do when something does not feel right?
Each State has its own employment laws and this blog will explain the laws of the State of New York. In New York, the employment is at will: it means that an employer may hire or fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. However, the reason cannot be illegal. What is an illegal reason? It is a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. Human Rights Law of the State of New York and New York City, as well as Title VII provide protections to workers. In short, the laws state that a person should not be subjected to hostile environment or disparate treatment based on his/her race, gender, nationality, place of origin or age. Each level of laws (Federal, State, City) covers the same and different spectrum of discriminatory basis, with the laws of the NYC being the broadest. How do we know which laws are applicable? We determine that based on the place of employment and nature of the case.
Further, the law is very clear that employers must provide employees with notices as to what constitutes discrimination at workplace and how the employees can address the issues if they believe their rights have been victimized. Is every employer liable under the Human Rights laws? No, the size of the employer matters. To be liable under the Federal law, the employer has to employ 15and more people; under the NY State law 4 and more people; under the City law: 4 and more.
Now, some “things” may seem wrong but they are not illegal. For example, your boss is not a nice guy: he screams and yells at everybody; requires you to do a lot of work and in general just not a “nice” person. Plus, he fired you because of customer’s complaint… Well, if the “boss” does not attach a discriminatory motive behind his actions, he is allowed to be “not nice.” However, if the boss singled you out because of your age, nationality, race, or gender, than he will be in trouble…
The first thing to do when you feel uncomfortable with what being said or done to you, would be to bring this issue up with your immediate supervisor, HR department or the owner/boss himself. If this does not help, you may file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, New York State Division of Human Rights or EEOC. How to know which one to use? This requires a careful legal analysis as the wrong choice may cost you your case. Sometimes, it is “futile” to complain because the supervisor is the main harasser. In this case, you may go to one of the mentioned agencies or directly to State court. Again, the choice of forum is an art in its own, and will depend on many different factors such as: damages, statute of limitations; nature of the case; co-plaintiffs/ co-defendants…
If you need to help with your employment questions and or have questions regarding DISCRIMINATION AT WORKPLACE, call Law Office of Alena Shautsova, New York Employment Discrimination attorney at 917-885-2261.